This week begins a three-part series on Easter and its meaning for us. First, as I said last year, the name Easter comes from a pagan holiday, and has nothing to do with Christ or our redemption through Christ. A more complete explanation is in last year’s blog. I use the term Resurrection Sonday in place of Easter, as it is a more accurate term.
God’s plan for our salvation has been set in place since eternity past, but for our purposes here, for a brief history, we begin in Genesis, Chapter three. It is here that Adam and Eve first become aware of sin. This is significant because without awareness of sin there is no transgression. This is the basis of the Christian doctrine that small children are not held accountable by God until they are old enough to understand the concept of right and wrong. Children who die before this age go to heaven. The point at which a child becomes accountable for his or her actions varies with the individual child. Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said he made the alter call to be saved at age three. Others may not understand the concept until a later age, or even sooner than that.
Genesis chapter tree gives us the foundation for accountability. Adam and Eve certainly committed acts that were sinful before becoming aware of sin, but they were not held accountable for their actions until that time. Human nature is consistent. A person will behave in the same fashion day in and day out for all of life unless they decide to make a change for some reason. And, Adam and Eve were no exception to this rule of nature. God originally intended for them to live happily in ignorance of sin, but Satan ruined that plan by trading on a human weakness, pride, which is the original sin.
Satan came to Eve first, asking her, “Has God not said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree in the garden?’ ” (Genesis 3:1). Eve replied that God had said she and Adam could not eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, or touch it, or they would die (vv. 2,3). Here was her first mistake: She added to God’s word. God did not say they could not touch the fruit, only that they could not eat it. Satan replied, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” ( Genesis 3:4,5).
Satan did two things with this statement. First, he misconstrued the word die. God did not mean Adam and Eve would immediately suffer physical death by eating that fruit. He was speaking of spiritual death. Satan implied that God had said they would not physically die. And, he appealed to Eve’s pride, telling her that she and Adam would be like God when they ate the fruit because they would then know about good and evil. That is true. But knowing the difference between good and evil, and understanding our transgressions against God, is the basis for our being held accountable for our actions. Satan knew this, but Eve did not, so Satan misled her into believing it was a good thing to be like God. Eve ate of the fruit and took it to Adam, who also ate it. And because they did so mankind has been held accountable for sin ever since, because we have since then been able to understand the difference between good and evil. Therefore we are held accountable for sin in our lives.
Guilt also entered into the world at this time. Once Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, whatever it was, they understood that they were naked and were ashamed. They hadn’t felt ashamed before because they were unable to understand moral concepts. To cover their nakedness they sewed fig leaves together to make a crude form of clothing to cover their sin. It was at this point that God showed up. The couple hid themselves from God because they now knew they had done wrong by going against God’s prohibition. God asked them, “Who told you that you were naked?” Adam blamed their sin on Eve, and Eve blamed it on Satan (Genesis 3: 6-13). The fact is, though, that passing the buck did not absolve them from guilt then any more than it does today. Everyone since Adam and Eve has been accountable to God for all actions done or not done as the case may be.
Here is where the basis for salvation enters into God’s word to us. He made clothing of animal skins for Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness: For mankind’s sin to be covered before Christ there had to be a sacrifice. An animal had to die to pay for sin ( Genesis 3:21). It was at this point that physical death entered into the world. God told the arrant couple that they had come from dust and would return to dust. He blocked their access to the tree of life so they could not eat its fruit and live forever. They were not prohibited from eating of the tree of life before that time, but they were after the fall. This is highly significant, because physical death is the point at which we either are with God forever in heaven, or are banished from His presence forever to suffer the same eternal torments that Satan and his angles will suffer.
In telling Satan what his punishment would be for misleading the first couple God made a statement that outlined His plan for our salvation. It’s easy to miss it unless you’re reading closely. God told Satan, “He shall bruise your head, and He shall bruise your heel” ( Genesis 3:16). God was speaking of Christ. He told Satan He would put enmity between his seed, the people who are unbelievers and thus belong to Satan, and “her seed”, Eve’s descendants, one of whom was Jesus. Her seed here means those who follow Christ, or before Him those who followed God and kept the law as best they could. Satan would bruise Christ’s heel by causing Him to be crucified, but in doing so he was playing directly into God’s plan. It was necessary for Jesus to be sacrificed as payment for our transgressions. Jesus was God incarnate, God come into the world. Therefore He was the only sinless human who ever lived. He had to be the ultimate sacrifice, because anyone else would just be dying for their own sin and not ours. Christ’s physical death on the cross in our place is what makes Resurrection Sonday the most important Christian holiday. It’s more important than Christmas because God being born into the world didn’t save us. It’s His death on the cross that gives us the only means of salvation.
Paul explained in Romans that without the law there is no accountability in that there are no rules to transgress. Still, he wrote that death reigned from Adam to Moses because of Adam and Eve’s learning of right and wrong: If you know it’s wrong to disobey God, then you should not disobey Him: ” Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all people, because all have sinned–For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned form Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come”. But Paul continued, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For by one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift of the grace of one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many” (Romans 5:12-21).
All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. It’s through God’s grace through our faith in Jesus’ work on our behalf on the cross that we may eternally live with God in heaven. And, salvation through Christ began with Adam and Eve. God set the sequence of events in motion at that time in history. The law of Moses didn’t save, it pointed up human failings. The scapegoat the Jews banished, and the one sacrificed pointed to Christ. Isaiah wrote, “Surely He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6, NKJV).
The only way we can get out of this physical world alive to God is through accepting Christ as our Savior, by our faith in His grace in His being the only Person whose death on the cross could save us. And that is what makes Resurrection Sonday the most important day the world has ever known or ever will know. Everything since Adam and Eve has pointed to that time when Jesus was sacrificed in our place on the cross. the crucifixion was God’s gift to us. But a gift is worthless if you don’t accept it. If you are a Christian you have an obligation to God to follow the great commission and tell others about the gift. If you are not a Christian, it’s time you accepted the gift that has been there for you since the foundation of the world. Accepting that gift of salvation is the only way you’re getting out of this world alive. Now is the time to accept it, because you don’t have a guarantee of tomorrow, not even of the next minute. And, not deciding for Christ is deciding against Him. Your gift is waiting, accept it now.