The Age of Innocence
March 24th, 1957 @ 8:15 AM
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-24-57 8:15 a.m.
These are the early morning services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the morning message, and it is entitled The Edenic Age of Innocence.
Some several months ago, we began a survey of some of the great structural foundational principles that are inwoven in the revelation of the Word of God. And we began with the creation and these last immediate Sundays have been speaking of the creation of man.
Now, this Lord’s Day morning hour, we are turning our faces to the story of the man and the woman whom God made as it is told in the second and the third chapters of Genesis. And if you will turn in your Bibles to that place, you can follow the message with ease and alacrity.
Now, for just a few moments of summary: It is our persuasion that the story recorded in these first chapters in Genesis are simple, plain narrative. It is not enigma or riddle. It is revelation. It is a plain, simple, unaffected, unadorned recounting of what God actually did, of what really happened. To turn it into allegory is to blur its message and to deprive it of its real significance and meaning. It is a plain narrative, and it means exactly what it says. And the story happened exactly as it is recorded.
It starts off with the fact that God made this world by fiat. As Hebrews 11:3 would say it, "We understand by faith that God formed, framed this world by His own word out of nothing" [from Hebrews 11:3]. God created it, fashioned it, formed it, builded it out of nothing. As Psalm 148 would say: "God made this world by His word" [from Psalm 148:5]. It was a fiat work. God said it, and it was done [Genesis 1:3, 6, 9. 11, 14, 20, 24].
Now, there immediately followed here in the Bible, in the next verse, a description of that world that God created, but many times, Scriptures will pass over vast ages and eras without taking into account the time that has passed. So we are persuaded in this story, the purpose of which was not, and the Bible’s purpose of which is not, to recount all of the history of this world or to include in it all of the acts of God [John 21:25].
It is our persuasion that there is a great, vast time – uncounted ages that elapsed between the first verse of Genesis and the second verse of Genesis. It is our persuasion that when God created this universe, He created it in perfection. It was just as the holy, infinite, magnificent, architecturally-skilled hands of God could have made it. And our translation of the second verse in the first chapter of Genesis is: "and the earth became . . . " [Genesis 1:2]. God created it perfect [Isaiah 45:18], and the earth became tohu wabohu.
Over here in the forty-fifth chapter of Isaiah and the eighteenth verse, Isaiah using these words: "For thus saith the Lord that created, bara’, created the heavens . . . He created it not tohu, not empty, waste, void, uninhabitable. He created it not tohu" [from Isaiah 45:18].
In the fourth chapter of the book of Jeremiah and the twenty-third verse, Jeremiah uses those exact words tohu wa bohu with regard to the judgment of God upon sin and upon the world. "I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, they had no light" [Jeremiah 4:23]. So I say it is our persuasion that God created this world infinitely beautiful and marvelously perfect and that it became waste and empty and uninhabitable and void.
Now, it is our persuasion that the great geological ages of these times past is between the first and the second verses in the first chapter of Genesis. How long those geological ages were we can only guess. But it fell into chaos and into ruin because of the entrance of sin in the heaven and into this earth through the fall of Lucifer, through the fall of Satan [Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-18; Revelation 12:7-9].
The geological record that we read in this earth tells of that violent day of destruction and death. When you see those fossil forms of animals, so many of them are so fierce like the saber-toothed tiger. The earth fell into vanity, into chaos, into ruin, into savagery, and into death. And I see these vast geological ages of the past that are unknown and un-recounted. They occurred between the first and the second verses of the first chapter in Genesis.
Then, in the wisdom of God, in the purpose of God, in the plan of God, the Lord God chose to re-create this earth and to place upon this earth a new leader and a new ruler. And the story that you have here in Genesis [Genesis 1:3-25] is not the story of the first creation. That is in the first verse [Genesis 1:1]. But the story that you have in this chapter in Genesis is the story of the re-creation of the world – the refurnishing of the world after it had fallen into chaos and into ruin, being uninhabitable, a place of darkness, of waste, of watery ruin [Genesis 1:2].
God chose to re-create this world, and He did it in six days, and He did it by fiat – by the spoken word. Just as the Lord God created His universe in the beginning by a word, so God re-created this world that was lost and ruined by the Word of God. He spake and it was done. For example, God said, "Let there be light," and there was light [Genesis 1:3]. So the whole creation story is by the word of God. Then, on this last day, God created a man out of dust and out of deity. "And the Lord God formed him of the dust of the ground, and the Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7] made in the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27].
Now, this ancient story says and modern chemistry affirms that the bodily structure of a man is of the earth, earthy. All the elements that are in it are in the ground. He’s taken out of the dust of the ground and back to that dust shall his bodily structure return [Genesis 2:7, 3:19]. That’s what the Book says. That’s what chemistry says. But there is also in this man deity. God fashioned him in His own image [Genesis 1:26-27]. God is Spirit [John 4:24], and there is abiding in this bodily house a moving, living, quickened soul that is like God [Matthew 10:28; Mark 8:36; 1 Thessalonians 5:23]. It is immortal. It never, never dies!
So the Lord God made this man and placed him in the earth which now was beautiful and glorious and refurbished and remade [Genesis 2:8, 15]. Can you imagine the Edenic Age and how glorious it must have been? [Genesis 2:9-17] The streams swarmed with fishes. Wouldn’t that be a fisherman’s paradise? And the whole atmosphere was filled with fragrance of fruit and flower, and the birds of paradise with beautiful plumage, and the bird of emerald meadows, and valleys were filled with flocks and herds of all of the beautiful animals that God had made. No animal preyed upon another, nor did one eat another. All of God’s animals were herbivorous, and they grazed on the beautiful rolling mountains and on the beautiful rolling hills and in the beautiful valleys of the plain, and it was watered by silver streams. And they didn’t have any tornados – didn’t have any storms – for the Bible says a mist from the earth watered the whole face of the ground [Genesis 2:6]. It was an Edenic world, beautiful just as God had recreated it, but that wasn’t good enough for the man.
The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden [Genesis 2:8]. Now Eden is not the garden. Eden is the district. Eden is the region. And we can find from reading of the rivers that are in that garden, two of them we can certainly identify. One of them is the Tigris River and the other is the Euphrates [Genesis 2:10-14]. So Eden was a great district somewhere in that part of Asia that we know as Mesopotamia. From the Persian Gulf up to the Caspian Sea, through Armenia, through Iran and Iraq in all that country there, that is a district that God called Eden. And in that district somewhere, God planted a gan – that’s the Hebrew word – a gan: an enclosure, a fenced-in portion. And there, the Lord placed the man and later his wife [Genesis 2:8, 15, 21-23].
So they lived there in the Garden in Eden in a beautiful age and state of innocence. They had no idea of the ruin beneath their feet covered over by the verdue of the re-created world. They had no idea of the fallen spirits who were led by Lucifer in rebellion against God [Revelation 12:3-4]. They had no idea of death – what it meant. They were living there in humble and simple innocence. God said, "Obey My word and thou shalt live" [from Genesis 2:16-17]. And they were living in obedience to the Word of God. That is the Edenic Age of Innocence.
Now may I make three observations about the story here in Genesis?
First, a man who had been listening to me on the radio came up to me a few days ago and said, "I have read that story in Genesis." And he said, "There are two stories of the creation of man, and they contradict each other." What he was referring to is that in Genesis 1:26 there is a little story. God said, "Let Us make man in Our image . . . So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them" [Genesis 1:26-27]. That’s in the first chapter.
Now, in the second chapter of Genesis, it tells the story again. In the seventh verse: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" [Genesis 2:7].
And then, in the same second chapter of Genesis, the twenty-first and following verses: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh thereof . . . and out of that He made the woman" [from Genesis 2:21-22]. So the man says there are two accounts of the creation, and they contradict each other.
Well, I had heard that several times in my life and had run across it several times in my reading. And so I set myself to see what I could find out about that, and I can’t find out anything about that except what is just a simple, plain thing here in the Book.
First, there is a statement made that God created this man and the woman [Genesis 1:26-27] – that’s all. Then, in the second chapter, it gives some details about the creation of how God did it. Now, why should that be contradictory? I have thought and thought and I’ve studied and studied and I have read and read and I just can’t find any explanation for some other guy’s inanity and ridiculous silliness. I just don’t have any answer for it. Why in the world would somebody want to read that and say, "Well, they contradict each other"?
No. Many, many times in the Bible will you find a statement made that something happened, and then later on, it’ll tell the detail of what happened. That’s exactly what happened here.
Moses, in the first chapter [of Genesis] – and the chapter division isn’t good; the first chapter ends at the third verse of the second chapter. In that great first chapter, Moses describes the whole panoramic work of God – the whole creation. Then in the second chapter [Genesis 2:4], it begins with another name for God: Jehovah Elohim. Jehovah God, YHWH Elohim, and it begins the story of redemption which begins with the story of man.
You know, some people remind me of a fellow who never had seen a coconut. And a man gave the coconut to him and said, "This is good for food." And the man sat down and started gnawing on the coconut, and after he had gnawed and gnawed on that thing plucked from the tree for a long while, he finally threw it away and said, "Why the thing’s not fit at all for food." What he ought to do is to break it open and get to the meat in the coconut. Then he’d find it good.
That’s the way people are about the Bible. When they pick it up many times, they have ridiculous, inane difficulties set before them. And instead of getting to the real meaning of the thing, why they just gnaw and gnaw on the husks and on the shell and never get down to the thing itself.
Now, that’s the way with a thing like that. In the first chapter, God makes the statement, and in the second chapter, He gives the detail of how He did it. Now, that’s the first thing I want to observe before we go on.
Now, the second thing I want to speak of, by way of observation, is the creation of the woman. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam . . . and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’" [Genesis 2:21-23].
Now, a word about that. First, the differentiation of the sexes is one of the unfathomable mysteries of life. It baffles science, and philosophy is speechless. There’s no explanation for the differentiation of the sexes for a man and a woman, for a male and a female, by any way that a scientific reasoning could be laid before you and you could see how it developed. It can’t be done.
Now, the other thing is this. This was done by the hand of God, by the skilled creative genius of God. But it wasn’t done quite like you get the impression here in the Bible, and it has a profound meaning. May I point out briefly that meaning? You have it translated here, tsela – a little word there. "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam . . . and He took tsela and closed up the flesh thereof. And the tsela which the Lord God had taken, banah builded He up a woman and brought her up to man" [Genesis 2:21-22].
Now, the first thing that had came into my mind as I looked at that is this. Translated there tsela, a rib, it could not have been a bare rib because Adam said, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" [Genesis 2:23]. It was not a bare rib because when Adam looked upon her and God’s revelation into his soul let him know what had happened, he said, "She is flesh of my flesh." So it was not a bare rib.
Then I discovered another thing in my study. This is the only place in the Bible where tsela is translated "rib," and I cannot find out why they did it here. It’s the only place, I say, in the Bible where that word is translated "rib."
Now, I want you to look at that word. It’s a very simple word and used in Hebrew again, again, and again. In Exodus 25 and 12, here it is: "And thou shalt cast four rings of gold for the Ark of the Covenant, and put them in the four corners thereof; and two rings shall be in one tsela of it. And two rings shall be in the other tsela of it" [Exodus 25:12] – and there it is translated "side."
When you make the Ark of the Covenant, why you’re to put two rings on one side of it – tsela – and you’re to put two rings on the other side of it – tsela. It’s just an ordinary word: tsela.
Now, in the twenty-sixth chapter – just turn over one chapter – in the thirty-fifth verse, you have how the furniture was placed in the tabernacle: "And thou shalt set the table without the vail, and the candlestick over against the table on the sela, on the side of the tabernacle toward the south: and thou shall put the table on the north sela – on the north side" [from Exodus 26:35]. Thou shalt set the table on the south sela, south side of the tabernacle, and thou shall put the candlestick on the north sela of the tabernacle.
Well, it’s that way all through the Bible. It is "side" – translated "side!" Nowhere in the Bible – nor have I been able to find out in my studying why they translated it "rib" here [Genesis 2:21-22]. What the Bible says is this: that when God made the woman, He took her out of the side of the man and closed up the place thereof. And when Adam saw her and the revelation was in his soul what God had done, he said, "She is bone of my bones. She is flesh of my flesh. She shall be called isshah because she was taken out of ish" [from Genesis 2:23].
God is saying there two things. One: that the woman is the counterpart and the complement, c-o-m-p-l-e-m-e-n-t, she is the counterpart and the complement of the man. She is taken from close to his heart, from his side, and is a part of himself – is a side of himself. A woman is another side of the man, and the two are complete in one. God made it that way.
And when finally we come to know the ultimate spiritual meaning of what God hath done, it is a picture of the bride of Christ and the bridegroom. The bride of Christ, His church, is taken from the side of the Son of God, from the wound that broke open His heart [John 19:34] – bone of His bones and flesh of His flesh [Ephesians 5:30].
When you read these great revelations of God back there in the beginning and find their true meaning and then their ultimate revelation, you will find God is bringing to pass through all of these ages a purpose and a plan that He had in His heart in the beginning when He created the man and the woman: taken from his side – so the woman, the complement of the man, and so the church, the bride of Christ.
Now, the third observation I wanted to make before we continue is this: I want to say that the first chapters in Genesis are the very foundation of the whole structural revelation of the Bible. And if these chapters falter and fail and are false, then the whole revelation, the whole structural form, of the Bible crumbles into dust.
All of the story of redemption is posited upon this: that the man is a fallen creature and must be redeemed – that God made him upright and strong and he fell into sin. And the story of the ages is the story of the plan of redemption: bringing the man back, bringing him back.
Now, if this story is not correct, then the whole fabric of the Bible turns to dust and ashes; and especially is that true if evolution is correct. The Bible says we are a fallen people [Romans 3:23] and Christ came to redeem us [Ephesians 1:5-7], to bring us back to God [2 Corinthians 5:18]. Evolution says that a man is from a beast and is coming up and up and up and up. And if that is true, the whole message of the Bible is vitiated. We don’t need any Redeemer, and we don’t need any Savior. Just give us time, and we will evolve into an angel himself.
For example, H. G. Wells [Herbert George Wells, 1866-1946], in his Outline of History [1919-20] said: "If all the animals and man had been evolved in this ascendant manner, then there had been no first parents, no Eden, and no Fall. And if there had been no Fall, the entire historic fabric of Christianity, the story of the first sin and the reason for an atonement . . . collapses like a house of cards." That’s what the unbeliever H. G. Wells observed in it, and he’s correct. If there’s not any Eden and not any created man and not any Fall, then all of the story of the Bible collapses. It is nothing.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [1859-1930] wrote all those detective stories. He wrote an ambitious book entitled The New Revelation . And in that book, this Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, and I quote, "Christianity must change or perish. One can see no justice in a vicarious sacrifice nor in the God who could be placated by such means. Never was there any evidence of a Fall. But if there be no Fall, then what becomes of the Atonement, of the Redemption, of original sin, of a large part of Christian mystical philosophy?" What becomes of it is it turns into nothing.
I say, if these chapters of Genesis are not true and if they’re not correct and if they’re not right, then throw your Bible away. You don’t need to read it. It’s beside the point. Just give us time, and we shall evolve into all of those marvelous things that we read about in the heaven God is preparing for those who love Him.
But, you see, our thesis is so different. We believe – we believe that the reason for the coming of Christ was to redeem the man that fell from his first estate [Genesis3:1-24; Matthew 1:21]. And we believe that by the grace of the Lord [Ephesians 2:8-9], some day, this fallen man shall inherit the tree of life, shall drink at the river of life, shall live in the city of heaven, shall again, some day, have that same close fellowship with the Lord that he had in the Garden of Eden [Revelation 21:1-22:21]. And the story of that redemptive plan is the story of the Book of God.
Now, with those observations, oh and I need another hour; I need another hour. With those observations, we now turn to the story in the Garden of Eden. "Now the serpent" [Genesis 3:1] – do you notice that? Third chapter now: "Now the serpent" – ha nachash. The serpent, not a serpent. "Now the serpent . . . " [Genesis 3:1].
Oh, oh, oh! One of the curiosities that you’ll find in the British Museum is this. They have detached a brick from one of the ancient walls of Babylon, and over the king’s seal, impressed in that brick, is the footprint of a mongrel dog. In the ancient, ancient days of Babylon, whenever the bricks were made, they placed in the brick the seal of the reigning mighty monarch. And when this brick was made and the seal of the great mighty king of Babylon was stamped on it, while the brick was soft and plastic, a mongrel dog, common in Babylon, wandering around over the city, stepped on it and there you can see today, after the ages have passed, the seal of the mighty king disfigured by the footprint of that mongrel dog. That’s an exact picture of our fallen race. There is the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27] and stamped upon it the dirty disfigurement of the track of Satan. And the story of that disfigurement is the story in the third chapter of Genesis.
"Now the serpent . . . " [Genesis 3:1]. What kind of a creature was he, this serpent? Oh, you are sometimes persuaded that he looked like this serpentine sinuous thing that frightens a fellow to death! Walking along through the woods and suddenly there’s a brush and that slithering thing, on its way, black or coiled. Oh, no! Oh, no! I tried to find out that nachash – I tried to find out what that word meant in the beginning, and here’s one thing that I found out. There are many that think that word comes from nechosheth which means – it is sometimes translated "brass;" it is sometimes translated "bronze," and it comes from "the shining one, the shining thing."
This creature, which is Satan incarnate, we know his name. You read the twelfth chapter of Revelation in the ninth verse. His name is that old dragon, that serpent, Satan, Lucifer incarnate here. And he was incarnate in a beautiful and glittering and alluring form. I do not know what that form was, but the serpent, the serpent, was the most beautiful and alluring and attractive of all of the creatures that God had made other than the man himself [Ezekiel 28:12-13].
Eve was not afraid of him when he came to speak to her, nor was she astonished at his presence. He seemed to be somebody there among those creatures that God had made with whom she was perfectly familiar. I do not know what he looked like. Nobody knows. But I do know this: he was not that terrible, fearsome, unwelcome form such as you know today. That is a result of the curse [Genesis 3:14-15]. But this creature, whoever he was, this creature is one of great beauty and magnificence, and he is an incarnation of a fallen archangel. And he comes up to the woman in a most wonderful and alluring way. He speaks to her when she’s by herself, finds her alone [Genesis 3:1]. And he speaks to her when she can look upon that tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and there it is before her eyes with its alluring fruit.
And Satan is the first higher critic. Look how he does: First there’s an innuendo. There’s an insinuation. There’s a question about the Word of God. "Yea, hath God said, ‘Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’" [Genesis 3:1] "Yea, did God say that?"
Does God say that a man is lost without Christ? Does God say there is a hell and a punishment? Would God do that? Would He? Why that is unthinkable! Does God do things like that? Does God say things like that? Is that the kind of a God He is? Yea, did God say?
First the insinuation, the innuendo, then the flat denial: "And the serpent said unto her, "Ye shall not surely die" [Genesis 3:4] – a flat denial of the Word of God! "Does God say that? That’s not true!" Then the third thing: and he seeks to offer the rewards to exalt and to deify man. "Your eyes shall be open. You shall be wise. You shall be as gods" – like God Himself [from Genesis 3:5]. That is the final Antichrist [2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 13:1-18]: a man deified. That’s what [Satan] offers every ambitious man – to deify himself like Nebuchadnezzar [Daniel 3:1-7], make a golden statue of him sixty cubits high and six cubits broad [Daniel 3:1]. That’s the number of the man, 666 [Revelation 13:18]: and his number shall be 666. The deification of the man: be as a god yourself.
"And when the woman saw the tree good for food (the lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (the lust of the eyes), and the tree desired to make one wise (the pride of life), she succumbed and took of the fruit and ate thereof and brought it to her husband and he chose to eat with her" [from Genesis 3:6]. Then the Edenic age of innocence collapsed as they looked upon themselves and they were naked [Genesis 3:7], and as they looked in their souls and they were afraid of God [Genesis 3:8]. And the whole world turned to the night and the sorrow and the death into which we have been born [Romans 5:12] and from which, by God’s grace, we are praying for an ultimate and final redemption [Romans 8:18-23].
Now, while we sing one stanza of a hymn – one stanza – somebody give his heart to the Lord in faith and trust. Somebody put his life with us in the church. While we sing this hymn, you come and stand by me while we stand and while we sing.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1. Narrative is plain and simple
2. God made this world by fiat, by His Word
3. God created the universe perfect, then the earth became
4. God then prepared earth for man and placed man in it
5. There is a vast amount of time between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2
1. Eden is a region, and is not just the garden
2. God placed the garden within the region of Eden
3. Man in the garden had no idea of death, fall of Satan
1. The two accounts of creation in Genesis do not contradict but compliment each other
2. Creation of woman; she was made out of the side of Adam, not his rib
3. Genesis 1 is the foundational structure of the whole Bible, we are fallen and God delivers us from our fallen nature
1. If there is no fall, the entire Bible collapses
2. Serpent – Satan
3. Temptation – "You can be like God. You can be a god."
4. Fall – nakedness, fear, shame, death
5. Thus the beginning of God’s deliverence