Ever since his expulsion from Eden, man has tried to regain Paradise by his own devices and in his own way, and this explains part of his predicament today—self-will instead of surrender, pride and arrogance instead of humility and obedience.

There is a passage in the third chapter of Genesis that is perhaps of far greater significance than we realize: “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing 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’—therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:22–24).

To read too much into this is foolish. To ignore its significance is equally foolish.

God had ordained that man should not partake of the tree of life by his own volition. The way to life, then and now, is through faith and obedience. There is no other way. For millenniums the tree of life is not mentioned again in the Bible. Then to the suffering church in Ephesus the angel promises “To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7); while at the conclusion of the revelation given to the Apostle John we are told of man’s eternal home: “Then he showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:1, 2).

At man’s fall, a great barrier was raised between him and God through his unbelief and disobedience. The cherubim are symbolic of God’s holy presence and unapproachability. They were celestial beings who guarded his righteousness and government from the intrusion of the unbelieving and unregenerate. We are told that, in the holy of holies of the Tabernacle, God’s glory dwelt between the cherubim, and these cherubim separated sinful man from a holy God. Otherwise man would have approached to his own destruction.

The flaming sword was symbolic of God’s Word, of authority, power, judgment, and God’s justice. Our Lord testified to the validity and power of his word: “He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:48).

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The Apostle Paul speaks of the “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17), while Jeremiah cries out against the false prophets, “The wise men shall be put to shame, they shall be dismayed and taken; lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD, and what wisdom is in them?” (Jer. 8:9). And in the previous verse Jeremiah says of the law of God, “But, behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it a lie.”

Would to God that those today who have followed in their footsteps by rejecting the holy Scriptures would take heed and repent, not only for their own sakes but also for the sake of those they are leading down the path to destruction!

In each succeeding generation, man seems determined to have his own way rather than God’s. Cain rejected a sacrificial lamb in favor of a more aesthetically pleasing offering, and with disastrous results.

In Noah’s time, we are told, “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.… The earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Gen. 6:5, 11).

(In the light of its privileges and opportunities, perhaps America is even more guilty in God’s sight today. God was not mocked then, nor will he be today. Then a flood of destruction, and some time yet in the future, the judgment of fire.)

Again man, ignoring God, made plans to build himself a city and a tower and to get himself a name. But the God he ignored confused his language and dispersed the conspirators.

Then came Abraham!

Thank God for the example of a man who believed God—regardless! Thank God for one who has set us an example for all time; who in obedience to God’s call left his homeland, “not knowing where he was to go” (Heb. 11:8); who, confronted with God’s promises, “believed the Lord, and he reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6); who, when confronted with the promise of a son, believed God, though such a thing was physiologically impossible; and who, when tested by God, took his heir—“your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love” (Gen. 22:2)—and obeyed God with that kind of faith that is validated by total obedience. And by this act of obedience, his righteousness before God was sealed for eternity, and offered as an example to us whose faith and obedience is woefully weak.

To this day there remains a barrier between unregenerate unbelieving man and the eternal God, and this barrier can be passed in only one way—by faith in the atoning death of God’s Son.

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But man today, as in every past generation, through pride and willfulness continues to reject God’s way in favor of his own. Jesus was explicit when speaking about this matter. He said, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9), and he described the peril of any other route: “All who came before me are thieves and robbers” (John 10:8).

The unregenerate human heart willfully rejects the teaching that man’s hope for eternity rests solely in the death and resurrection of the Son of God. Today, as in the Apostle Paul’s time, the preaching of the Cross is utter foolishness until and unless the Holy Spirit takes the message and moves the hearts of the hearers.

Man’s attempts to storm the battlements of heaven are always futile unless he goes by the way of the Cross; but he persists because of his stubborn heart and will, and in this folly rejects the One who is the “way, the truth, and the life.”

God has made the way wondrously simple and plain. It is not by man’s works of righteousness but by the righteousness Christ provided for him.

Since Eden, the barrier of God’s holiness and the judgment of God’s Word have stood impervious to any and all efforts of man. But the way through to God’s holiness—one way only—is open and available to all who with the attitude and faith of a little child accept what God has done for them in Christ.

Truly, there is no other Name and no other Way.

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