|What are We?|
Psalm 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? 5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. 6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: 7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; 8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. 9 O Yehovah our Sovereign, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (RNKJV - Restored Name King James Version)
There are many fanciful ideas as to the nature of 'man' - some of them well entrenched in orthodoxy, often, as a result of an earnest desire to give Scriptural warrant to entrenched ideas adopted from paganism.
The Bible is not a collection of 'proof texts' to justify our ideas, it is the 'first stop' source of information from whence we go out and explore.
The Psalm quoted above is the compliment to the commission in Genesis where we read in Genesis 1:26-28 And Elohim said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So Elohim created man in his own image, in the image of Elohim created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And Elohim blessed them, and Elohim said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
We cannot help digressing as it is necessary to show how Scripture has been used to justify man-made doctrines. Today we have a doctrine of "Dominionism", the idea that somehow the Church is going to "Take Dominion" over our decaying society and it justifies itself by quoting the words "Take Dominion" from these verses. A plain reading simply establishes the fact that 'man' was made smarter than the rest of the creatures and was given dominion over the lesser creatures. Christians are often incorrectly exhorted to "take dominion". Dominion belongs to God and it is "given" not "taken". How we need to smarten up our ideas.
Well, if we go back and look at the first part of verse 26 we find the statement that God made 'man' in His (their) "image, after our likeness" and the psalmist said we were made "a little lower than the angels". So, what do we know about the original humans, known to us as Adam and Eve. We presume they were perfect according to their specification because we read in verse 31 "And Elohim saw every thing that he had made and behold, it was very good." Not just "good" but "very good". In spite of that it is interesting, therefore, to realise that the Adam and Eve were not immortal. Obviously, the period we are reading of in Genesis is some sort of probationary interval, a kind of "running in" parenthesis before the final equipping.
How do we know this? Well, they were given to eat of all the fruit of the garden, except one tree named "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Genesis 2:8,9) a kind of lengthily botanical appendage but a clear label of warning seeing that they had been told not to eat of it. There was also another special tree available to them called "The Tree of Life" - but more of that soon.
First, another small digression. It is common practice to take this whole story as a sort of myth or if not a myth then a highly figurative tale about symbolic details and events. I don't buy that approach as it leaves the whole thing open to devious human imagination while everything in Genesis fits logically into what we know and is confirmed from our experiences or what we can observe. I have dealt more fully with this viewpoint is a study I've called "A Unified Theory of Creation", but sufficient to say here that mankind was created a biological creature, perhaps vastly superior to our sin ravaged specimens today but still dependant on food and chemical means to provide energy and to adjust their mental orientation and to protect their bodies from gradual deterioration. Whether that sits well with your conventional "interpretation" or not, I don't know, but if you read Genesis with an uncluttered mind, I believe that the reasoning we propose here is unavoidable and more so as we continue.
Now it is permitted to "read between the lines" as much of what we learn from any "telling" is in what remains unsaid but clearly implied.
The key to this is: Genesis 3:22 And Yehovah Elohim said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore Yehovah Elohim sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. (My emphasis)
We see from this passage that clearly, God "knew good and evil" and that Adam and Eve were not immortal but that immortality was possible, even in a fallen state, had God permitted them to eat of the Tree of Life. We also see that it was necessary to place a physical restraint on their ability to do so. Those statements all have profound implications for orthodoxy.
Another digression in two parts.
(1) There are some, (especially young earth creationists) who suggest that before "the fall" death and evil didn't exist yet we read that God knew good and evil and we have Satan disguised as a serpent, present and clearly evil and opposed to God and His purposes. Are we also to assume that all creatures were to live forever (Gen.1:20-25) and if so why, right from the beginning, God created a food chain (Gen.1:29,30) (a food chain in itself suggests death of one kind or another) The origin of Satan as a 'deciever' was in a rebellion which took place long before the creation of Adam and Eve. Again I refer to "A Unified Theory of Creation" for further discussion on this topic.
(2) How was Adam kept from the Tree of Life? The classical portrayal is an angel standing holding a fiery sword, but read the passage again. "and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Translators often have a hard job figuring how people will see what they attempt to convey into another language - here we have the Hebrew plural word "Cherubim" with a terminal "s" just to be sure we get the picture. Cherubim were heavenly beings, probably with military connections and the statement here does not indicate how many cherubs were employed - maybe a platoon or a company, even a battalion - we are not told but it was not just one. Then that "sword". The record shows it was a stand alone device "and a flaming sword" and that it "turned every way", like some automatic barrier or radar type sensing device, certainly more advanced than anything we may make but we can understand it's function, probably better than Moses who we credit with writing Genesis about 2000 years after the fact. Which raises another very interesting point about how Moses, or anybody else for that matter, received all this information - they were not eye-witnesses. Still I wont digress further just now except to point again to "A Unified Theory of Creation" where this issue is discussed.
So, we are finding these humans to be interesting creatures who eat normal food (Adam and Eve were vegetarians) and require other "food supplements" to enhance their understanding and prevent their eventual demise. The fact that it all seemed to go wrong does not change the characteristics of the original couple.
A few Thousand years Later.
God had set into motion His plan that He had referred to way back in The Garden, when He promised Satan, "... I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15 The divine "only begotten Son" walked this earth in preparation for the final conflict when He would defeat the deceiver through His death and resurrection, beginning the restoration of all things.
During His three and a half years ministry Yeshua said many things that have been used, like all of Scripture, to support our own ideas and wisdom. Speaking to the Saducees about a fictitious example they gave, of a woman who had seven husbands, Yeshua said to them:
Luke 20:34-36 "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: " 35 "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: " 36 "Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.
And, there are other similar passages in Matthew 22:29-32 Jesus answered and said unto them, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. " 30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. " 31 "But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, " 32 "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. "
So we are to be "like the angels", elevated from “a little lower than the angels” to "equal unto the angels" according to Yeshua. From these and a few other references has grown the idea that female and male is something we are not, after the resurrection but we become some sort of spiritualised neuter. Well, first we should ask, how about the angels? They may not "marry or are given in marriage" but they seem to still have gender. We have the case of "the angels that sinned" and intermarried with human women and had mutant offspring, Genesis is full of it (see Genesis 6:1-4; and many other refs. to Nephlim, Giants, Anakim, etc.) and as it is unsettling for some, many devious theological explanations have been given as to who these beings were but they are quite a stretch from the plain facts recorded in Scripture. I have written a study on the Nephlim that goes into detail with references on this subject.
The point is that all the evidence points to these creatures being of extra terrestrial origin and were ultimately judged for their rebellion. 2 Peter 2:4 Many Scriptures give angels very similar attributes and interests to our own but the main point of this argument is that, being like angels does not mean we are no longer human, in it's highest form.
Remember too, that Yeshua appeared to still be a man after the resurrection although He had a disturbing (to the disciples) degree of control over matter, time and space. John 20:19,20
We may need to digress again here and briefly discuss what is meant by "marriage". Basically, biblical marriage was a legal device to protect the genealogical purity of the family line, especially from the time of Adam until the birth of Yeshua. If we understand what the "angels that sinned" were about you will see the reason. If Satan could corrupt the Adamic blood line he may head off the Edenic threat (or promise) of his defeat. Right throughout the Old Covenant Scriptures, the "begats", the remembering of the family tree was of great importance, from God's point of view, as He was preparing a plan to become joined with a true descendent of Adam. It is also very interesting that while it was absolutely forbidden for a woman to have two (or more) husbands, a man could have many wives, (Jacob had four). Biblical adultery was not a man taking another wife, it was only if he took someone else's wife and the penalties were terminal. This was not the concoction of some bunch of male chauvinists. It was the divine rule by which a family blood line could be traced. It requires little imagination, living in our "liberated" society to see that, under the Biblical rule, every child knew who his Mum and Dad were, which many today do not. However, that is what Christian and other thoughtful socially minded folk are telling us - children need an Mum and a Dad. But there is also another very good reason to protect the blood-line, at least, from Adam to Yeshua as you have seen.
We see this usually as an incorrectly translated verse regarding Noah. Genesis 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of Yehovah. 9 These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. All that is usually "interpreted" to simply say Noah was a good guy - which is wrong! Verse 8, he was a good guy; verse 9 "These are the generations of Noah" what follows has to do with his "generations" - Noah was "just" - Noah was "perfect in his generations" note the terminal "s". Another translation might be "Noah had integrity of his generations". What this was saying, that in spite of all the mixing and mingling that had gone on with alien beings and the evil that had resulted, Noah had a perfect human, Adamic family tree - in fact we read "And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." Gen.6:12 Noah only "found grace in the eyes of Yehovah."
So, here are some very practical reasons for marriage that will become redundant in a perfect environment. Sin, envy, jealousy, lust all require the containment and constraints that Biblical marriage provide. In our redeemed state, without the provocation to sin there will be no barriers - we "shall be like the angles". Well, that may be a bit much for some to digest, but do a little study of your own and look at another of my writings on "One Flesh" - it's interesting!
We asked in the beginning of this discussion, "What are We?". I think, as we contemplate these things we become more aware of what it means to be "sons and daughters" of God and what life might be like in the future, when the "old things have passed away". I cannot conceive that, the original nature of mankind’s relationships which God originally created and said was "very good" will be destroyed. No! it will be resurrected, renewed, restored, redeemed and glorified. Paul was struggling with the concept when he wrote:
Romans 8:29 For whom he did fore know, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
1 Corinthians 15:52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
The being "changed" is the "putting on" of incorruptibility or as described elsewhere partaking of the Tree of Life as had been God's original intention. All the joy and fellowship of Eden restored.
Because we read that "God is spirit" we assume that means some unknowable, indefinable, almost ethereal being. C.S.Lewis in "The Great Divorce" drew a picture of the so-called heavenly state as being so "real" that rain was solid like hail and our present existence was like a vague mist - and indeed that is how it is described in the Scriptures. We await the ultimate reality.
As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
It's good to remember that to understand the end we need to read the beginning.
Keith Relf, August 2004