Images of the Savior (2 â€“ The Garden of Eden)
Immediately after his account of God's creation of the world, Moses goes on to describe the creature in whom would be centered God's design for creation, namely, the man whom he had formed; and likewise he describes the place in which the fulfillment of this design would be possible, namely, the Garden in Eden. In this description, we encounter a very notable and foundational glimpse of the coming Messiah, in at least two basic ways: first of all, in the general design and features of the Garden we have an image of the perfect state which Christ's work of redemption should accomplish for its subjects; and second, we have a foreshadowing of the means which Christ would employ in bringing about this final state of blessedness. Let us now reflect upon several specific things in which this twofold foreshadowing may be observed.
First, we see that the ultimate purpose of God's creation was to be the display of himself: thus God created man, finally and climactically, in his own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). Now consider our progression: the notable type of this display was innocent man in the Garden, before his fall had marred the image of God. But the ultimate fulfillment would occur in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, who, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth to become a human (See Galatians 4:4), and to stamp the image of his own perfect divinity upon his human flesh; even as we read in Hebrews 1:2, that Christ was â€œthe exact representation of God's essence,â€ which is a phrase signifying that Christ stamped, as it were, the precise character of God in all its infinite perfections, upon a different medium, viz., human flesh. Thus, when Jesus took on flesh, the fullness of God's glory was finally displayed in man to perfection, and so his original purpose for creation was ultimately realized. And there is also another way in which the redemptive work of Jesus fulfills this original design most perfectly: in bringing many brothers to glory (see Hebrews 2:10-11), Jesus, through the operation of his Spirit, re-creates in them his own perfect image (see 2 Corinthians 3:18; 1 John 3:2), and thus unchangeably accomplishes what was still but a shadow in the Garden of Eden, where the image of God in man was not finally confirmed, but was susceptible to distortion.
Second, we see that God's ultimate purpose included the universal spread of his reign, through this highest creature who should bear his image (Genesis 1:26, 28). The initial type of this was Adam's pre-eminency over every creature in the Garden, which was demonstrated by his naming them all individually (Genesis 2:19-20); but the ultimate fulfillment of this design was not then effected, inasmuch as the angels still remained unsubjected to that first man; and indeed, a fallen angel, in the form of a serpent, overcame him and drove him out of Eden. But Jesus would prove to be the perfect and ultimate fulfillment of this type in that he became lower than the angels for a time, having taken on human flesh, but then ascended far above them, and as a human began his reign over them and all of God's creatures (See Hebrews 2:5-9; 1:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28; Ephesians 1:18-23). And again, he likewise fulfilled this type perfectly in another way, in that, through union with him, his many subjects of redemption would one day judge the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), trample upon the head of the serpent (Romans 16:20), and reign together with Jesus over all the earth (Revelation 20:4).
Third, we see that God not only designed man to bear his image, but also, as his image-bearer, to enter into a deep and glorious fellowship with himself, even as we may infer from the account after the fall, where God, as if from custom, walks in the Garden to fellowship with Adam in the cool of the evening (Genesis 3:8). Now, the first type of this place of fellowship with the Most High is the Garden. But the ultimate fulfillment will occur in the New Jerusalem, which will be the perfect place in which God and men have a joyous fellowship, simply because it will be inhabited by the Mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus, who shall shine as the sun in all its glory, and ceaselessly perform the typological function of the temple (Revelation 21:22-23). Now, this description of Christ, the Lamb of God, as the final replacement of the temple, indicates as well the means through which man's perfect fellowship with God would come about, namely, by the Son of God's taking on human flesh to enter into his redemptive office and bring men back to the Father. Thus Jesus' body is called the temple (John 2:19-21), and thus the many subjects of his redemption, in whom he has come to dwell through his Spirit (John 17:23; Romans 8:9), are likewise called a temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:18-22). So we see again, that the perfect fulfillment of this Edenic type of a place where God might dwell with men came about through the perfect completion of Jesus' redemptive office, and that the effects of this accomplishment spread to all who were united to him.
Fourth, the Garden was marked by a river which sustained it with life-giving water, and which flowed to the four corners of the earth (Genesis 2:10-14). This feature is perfectly reproduced in the final state into which Christ's redemptive work will bring us, the new earth in which a river will flow from under the throne of God, with life-giving waters for all the nations (Revelation 21:6; 22:1); but likewise, it is a most instructive type of the way in which Jesus should bring life and healing to all the nations of the world; and thus the figure of a river, or else pure water, is often used of the results of Christ's redemptive work, and offered most freely to men who are thirsty for the true life and joy that is to be found only in the knowledge of God, which Jesus enabled by his taking on human flesh and accomplishing the work of redemption (e.g. Psalm 46:4; Ezekiel 47:1-12; Isaiah 41:17-18; 55:1; John 4:13-14; 7:37-39).
Fifth, the mention of gold, and also of bdellium and onyx, which are precious stones, is most evidently in anticipation of the beautiful and precious gifts that Christ should offer to mankind, and a figure by which to signify that the knowledge of God is a rich and beautiful treasure, just as the land of his presence was most gloriously adorned (Genesis 2:11-12). In this figure, as well, we see the perfect fulfillment in the final results of Jesus' redemptive work, which is described in Revelation as a city with streets of pure gold, and with a foundation composed of various precious stones (Revelation 21:18-21). And furthermore, the gospel-wisdom of knowing God, or else the words of God, are very often referred to under the figure of gold or silver (e.g. Psalm 12:6; 19:10; Proverbs 3:13-15); and so Jesus, who most perfectly brings to men the knowledge of God as the eternal Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30) and Word of God (John 1:1-3, 14; 1 John 1:1), is likened to a treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44), and said to be the one in whom dwell all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
Sixth, the Sabbath rest which characterized the state into which man first entered, in which the works of God required for his happiness were complete, is another figure of the final product of Jesus' work of redemption (Genesis 2:1-3). When Joshua brought the children of Israel into the promised land, which stood as a type of Jesus' bringing his children back into the place where they could enjoy fellowship with God, their entrance into that land of Canaan was referred to as a Sabbath rest (Hebrews 3:7-11); and yet, even after this entrance had been accomplished, David in the psalms spoke of another rest (see Hebrews 4:7-9); which signified that the true fulfillment of the sabbath type was yet to be seen. This fulfillment was accomplished by Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), who became our Sabbath rest by completing everything necessary for our entrance into the land where God's presence dwells (Hebrews 3:14-19; 4:10-11).
Seventh, and most poignantly, we may see in the tree of life a most precious glimpse both of the condition into which Christ's redemptive work should bring us, that is, into a most delicious, fruitful, and appetite-satisfying state of blessedness in his presence (e.g. Ezekiel 47:7, 12; Revelation 22:1-3); and also, a type of the means by which he should accomplish that great work. Now consider: there was a tree which was forbidden by God, and it had the appearance of everything sufficient for life, satisfaction, and the knowledge of God, being richly endowed with luscious fruits, and having the name of â€œthe knowledge of good and evil,â€ by which the first woman, deceived by the Serpent, was led to suppose that it should increase her knowledge of God, so that she should become altogether like him by partaking of it (Genesis 2:17; 3:1-6). In the same way, Satan tempts our souls with a lying replica of true religion, whispering in our ears that if we will but partake of the delights of human works and autonomy, we will assure ourselves of God's blessing and favor; and so he entices us away from the tree of life with the honied sweetnesses of his own false religion, that promise satisfaction but end in death and misery. But now, consider the tree of life; it was apparently similar to the tree which led to destruction, being likewise a tree adorned with fruits that promised life; but it was in fact life-giving, even to such a degree that, if one should partake of it after having been plunged into death, he would still be able to live forever (Genesis 3:22-24). Is this not an exceedingly precious glimpse of the cross of Christ, that tree upon which he hung as a curse and a sacrifice for our sins, so that if we but taste of the fruits that he there caused to grow, that is, if we partake of his broken body and shed blood, we might come into the life and joy of being restored again to God's favor forever â€“ even after having tasted of the forbidden fruit, and so inherited death?
So we see that the Garden of Eden was so designed and adorned as to provide a first glimpse of the perfect state of blessedness which the Son of God should bring us into through his redemptive work; and furthermore, that it was fitted with very many features to foreshadow the way in which he should undertake to accomplish this great feat. If the most perfect and glorious Garden of God was itself but a type of the work of Christ, which should be far more glorious yet, and a foreshadow of the condition into which we should enter as a result of that work, then consider how glorious Christ himself must be, and how thoroughly his work of redemption should succour our souls and sustain us with hope and joy in the face of every exigency we might encounter as we press on through this sin-cursed wilderness in the hope of glory.