He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:24 ESV)
The entirety of life’s strivings in our few short days under the sun can be summed up in one sentence—the desire to return to Eden. The perfect happiness and bliss that the first man and woman enjoyed in the garden of God is what every single human being aspires to whether they know it or not. In Eden, Adam and Eve were free to eat from the fruits of the garden, free from the curse of sin and death, and free from judgment and criticism as they wandered about naked and unashamed. They had stress-free and divinely-provided occupations, and most of all, supremely soul-satisfying intimacy and daily fellowship with the God who walked with them in the cool of the garden.
But when sin entered the human race, the holy God whose eyes are too pure to look on evil, could no longer abide in presence of sinful man. In a moment, the relationship between God and mankind changed from one of creator and employer to judge and avenger. Lest the pure glory of the holy and just God destroy their sinful beings, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden and forbidden to eat from the tree of life. And to make clear just how serious this separation was, a mighty angelic creature with a sword of fire was stationed to guard the tree.
The tree which had once nourished their lives was now completely untouchable. The text says that the sword turned every way, teaching us that there was no path whatsoever for man to take in order to return to fellowship with God. No person—no matter how stealthy or mighty—would ever be able to bypass that dread angelic warrior, signifying that the way back to the presence of God was closed to sinful man on pain of death.
But God in his mercy did not leave us to die outside the garden. Though the serpent struck us a mortal blow with his venomous lies, God promised us an offspring who would crush his head, Jesus Christ. By his sacrifice on the cross for sinners, our precious Lord and Savior quenched the flames of that fiery sword for those of us who believe. He did not do so by bending the laws of justice, but by boldly accepting the deathblow of justice. Christ took the place of sinful man as he approached the flaming sword on the cross. And though the sword sank into his flesh and claimed his life, the innocent lifeblood of the Lamb of God poured forth from the hole in his side and extinguished the flames of God’s wrath—flames that no water could ever extinguish, but only his blood could. “It is finished,” shouted the Christ from the cross, and so it was. The wrath and anger of God was forever satisfied. To all who believe in the Son of God as the Way, the Truth and the Life, the path back to Eden has been cleared. There is only one way—not many—but it is the sure and perfect way nonetheless. Never again should we as believers live under fear that we will one day meet the cherubim’s flaming sword, for our citizenship in the new garden of God was paid for in full by the blood of our Savior.
Christian, do you think about your Lord who gave himself up to be struck down by the flaming sword for your sins? Do you rejoice that Christ has provided in himself the Way for you to return to the garden of God? Do the realities of the eternal heaven and hell weigh heavily on your heart and mind as you look at a perishing world? Is your soul moved with compassion for the millions of people who do not know Jesus and continue to live under the threat of the angel’s flaming sword that will forever separate them from the holy God who made them?
We are more than conquerors through him who loved us! Let us never forget what a great gift we have received in our Christ who paved the Way into the garden of God through his own body and blood. And from grateful hearts, let us go into the world on beautiful feet and preach the Good News. Blood has extinguished the flames of our punishment. All that remains—is grace.