In this blog I am going to talk about the relationship of the Garden of Eden with the biblical time-line, and the implications of it. I am going to assume, in accord with my prior seven blogs, that the Earth is older than 6000 years, and that this does not disagree with Scripture. I would like to emphasize that this blog is considerably more speculative than my prior blogs. If you like it, well and good; if not, let it go.
The way I read and understand Genesis 1, I believe that a lot of time and events had already transpired on Earth prior to the creation of the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve's placement in it. One of these events concerns Satan (or Lucifer in Latin), the fallen angel. We are given intriguing information about him in Revelation 12:7-9, Ezekiel 28, and Isaiah 14:12-17 where, in summary, Satan was a powerful angel who rebelled against God, and as a result was thrown down to Earth along with his legion of rebellious angels. We don't know the timing of this event except to the extent that Satan was quick to make his entrance into the Garden to tempt Adam and Eve, so he seems to have been on Earth prior to the creation of the Garden.
You will recall that Satan was a special angel who was undoubtedly loved by God. Ezek. 28: 14-15 reads "You are the anointed cherub who guards; and I have placed you there: you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked on the stones of fire. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you." Because of his rebellion he was thrown down to Earth, apparently confined here as His prison — perhaps so his influence would not contaminate the rest of the universe.
A separate item I would like to note concerns the fossil record, where I have personal expertise. From this fossil record we have an idea of what life was like during any geologic time period. What we observe is that Earth was not a peaceful place prior to Adam. While there was, for sure, spectacular beauty and stunning variety in plants and animals, and no doubt scattered scenes of pastoral bliss, they do not camouflage the backdrop of vicious aggressive predation where both in the oceans and on the land, animals were divided into the hunters and the hunted. There is no doubting this. There have even been found fossils of eaten animals inside the fossils of the animals that ate them! Tyrannosaurus rex was real, he was a killer, and he walked on Earth prior to Adam.
And, of course, the ultimate aggressor was Death. If an animal did not die by being killed by another animal, it died by accident, starvation, disease, or old age. To a great extent, death and tyranny ruled the world. Planet Earth was not a peaceful carefree place to live at this time. It most certainly was not an idyllic Garden of Eden.
Another observation I would like to point out is in I Corinthians 15: 45-47 where Christ is referred to as the "Second Adam." The analogy made in the text is that Adam is of the Earth, and Christ is of the Spirit. While that is certainly true enough, it hardly needs to be said. What is the need for Scripture to refer to Jesus as a Second Adam? Besides, Jesus is more than a second Adam, He is God Himself. Why not just contrast the "way of all flesh" with Jesus and drop the Adam analogy? It would seem to make the point better unless there are underlying meanings.
None of us are in the position to judge God's actions, but I have trouble making sense of the fearful "dog-eat-dog" environment that existed prior to the Garden when I contrast it with the words in Genesis 1, where God proclaims each of His creative acts to be "good." While I admit that animals killing and eating each other is not on the same level as humans doing the same, it is still hard for me to understand how this frightful pre-Adamic Creation could be called good.
I believe the solution to this paradox harks back to Satan and His angels being thrown down to Earth. As said before, Satan seems to have arrived before the Garden was created, and may well have been there during most or all of the creative acts that proceeded on Earth. There is no way to be sure of this, or to understand its full implications, but I believe that Satan and his angels arrived very early in the order of Creation, and were given a free hand (or at least greater freedom) to do as they wished in the pre-Garden Earth. You will recall that Satan was cursed by God after tempting Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:14-15), the implication being that he had greater powers prior to that.
Satan's presence on Earth begs the question as to why God would then use Earth as the place for His creative acts. My guess (and it is only a guess) is that God still loved Satan and sought to redeem him. Instead of simply killing Satan, God gave him a world to live in; a planet where Satan could exercise his angelic powers, and hopefully turn them to good. God, in His love for Satan, set about making a world that was beautiful, not only in physical beauty and diversity, but in the wonder of created life. Each of His creative acts added increasing complexity to an amazing planet. It was a glorious Wonderland. But Satan refused to subject Himself to God. Rather than using the new Creation for good, Satan went about corrupting it. Each act of creation by God that God pronounced as "good" was followed rapidly by Satan's corrupting influence. With Satan's great powers that had not yet been weakened by God, he introduced disease, aging, death, and predation into the animal kingdom. The beauty and goodness of Creation was continuously bent and deformed. By doing so, Lucifer was shaking his fist at anger towards God. Planet Earth was no longer good. It was hideously deformed.
At this point, God decided to send a redeemer into the world. This Being would be a strikingly different kind of creation. He would actually be made in the image of God Almighty, and thus higher than even the angels, including Satan. You will remember that I Corinthians 6:3 tells us that we believers will ultimately judge the angels. That, to me, explains the mystery of why Jesus is called "the Second Adam." It is because the first Adam was also sent as a redeemer. This redeemer, Adam (and Eve), were endowed with the wisdom, understanding, and purity to influence Satan and bring him to repentance, and in turn, bring the savagery of planet Earth under control.
The Garden that Adam and Eve were placed in was protected and separated from the rest of the corrupted Earth. In this Garden everything reflected God's original goodness of creation. But the Garden was more than just a protective cell, designed to keep evil away. It was to be a nucleus, a seed for new beginnings. It had within its makeup, and as tended by Adam and Eve, the ability to grow and expand, conquering Earth by acres, then by miles, then by continents, bringing peace and harmony. Within it was the biologic power, proceeding from the Tree of Life, to thwart death. Adam and Eve and their progeny were to tend the Garden and grow it. They would be totally immune to death and disease. It was a new beginning for planet Earth. A redeemer had burst upon the scene. By his goodness and purity, and his influence on Satan, the fallen angels would be restored and the Garden would grow its boundaries until the entire Earth was a paradise. Great things were happening on this planet. All the Heavenly Host, no doubt, watched in expectation.
We all know the story from there. Satan did not have the power to directly defeat Adam in battle; he had to do it by cunning. And he did so. Adam, the redeemer, failed. The salvation of Lucifer and his angels and the greatness planned for planet Earth fell apart. Adam and Eve were cursed, Satan was further cursed, the Garden was withdrawn, and God subjected (or perhaps allowed?) all of His creation to futility. Satan, by my interpretation, lost his last chance to repent by tempting Adam, and thus continuing his rebellion. Meanwhile, the final battle for planet Earth had been delayed, awaiting another redeemer; a second Adam. One who would come in the name and power of God. The outcome this time will be different.
Many Bible scholars will immediately critique this interpretation on the basis of Genesis 1:31 that appears to show that at the end of God's creative acts that everything was perfect and uncorrupted, disallowing for Satan to have been at work prior to this. My response is that this verse was referring to the uncorrupted Garden in which God immediately placed Adam and Eve. If the entire Earth was a peaceful wonderful paradise at that time there would have been absolutely no need for God to place them in a specially created Garden. The strong implication is that the Garden of Eden was quite different from the rest of the world.
I take no offense if you don't like this interpretation. It is certainly not a point of salvation. But where I am headed in this series of blogs is a unified way in which to understand Genesis and science at the same time. This interpretation of the Garden of Eden is the one that makes the most sense to me, and has further implications that will be addressed (hopefully) in a future blog.
Blessings and keep the faith!