Over the course of many conversations on the topic, I have come to the realization that Eden, the Fall, and the Flood are commonly misunderstood ideas. Many who are otherwise well-versed in scripture often fail to even see that the three are connected in a meaningful way. So I made the following diagram as a visual aid to help clarify the connections. I will herein briefly explain the connections.
In the beginning God created a “very good” world (Gen 1:31). He planted a garden and placed humans in it to tend and take care of it (Gen 2:15), which meant growing fruit and vegetation for themselves and for the animals God placed upon the earth to live alongside them (Gen 1:29-30). Humans were created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) and lived boldly by faith (Gen 2:25). By this I mean they lived according to God’s will, carrying out his instructions for them, including the prohibition against eating from the tree that causes death, and they were not ashamed (or even aware) of their nakedness. They courageously trusted in God and lived according to the plan he purposed for them. In short, this was their dominion.
The serpent lured them into deviating from God’s instructions and to instead follow their own imaginations. In doing so, they ceased living by faith in God and immediately recognized their nakedness. This caused them to be afraid, so they covered and hid themselves from God and even tried to divert blame in order to avoid punishment for their error (Gen 3:7-10). Just as God warned that death would result if they ate from the tree, he then additionally warned the humans after the fall that they will rule over each other instead of being the equals in God’s image that God created them to be (Gen 3:16). He said the descendants of the serpent and those of the humans will also cause injury to each other (Gen 3:15) and that instead of life being joyful, it will be full of hardship (Gen 3:16-17).
Things got so bad that God decided to destroy the whole world with a great flood and essentially start over. God says people were living according to their own imagination and that everything they did was evil in his sight (Gen 6:5). So he saved a small remnant of humans and animals with which to restart the world by safeguarding them in an ark during the flood. But when the humans and the animals exited the ark, the humans began killing the animals, prompting God to make a covenant promise with them – that is, with the humans and the animals – to withdraw the curse of the fall and to never destroy the inhabitants of the earth again with a flood, despite the humans still living according to their own evil imaginations (Gen 8:21) instead of by God’s original “very good” instructions (Genesis 1:31). So he blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply, just as he did in Eden, but instead of telling the humans to have dominion like he did in Eden, he warned them of the consequences of living according to their own evil imaginations. He says they will kill and eat animals and that the animals will be afraid (Gen 9:2). In short, their dominion based in love has become tyranny based in fear.
Christ represents the way out of sin, out of fear-based tyranny, and back to dominion (Matthew 28:18). He represents a return to humility and out of arrogance (Philippians 2:7-8). He represents a love that serves others rather than a fear that injures ourselves and those around us (Mark 10:45). He represents a return to living by faith in God and adherence to our divine instructions – away from living according to our own imaginations motivated by fear (Romans 1:17). As John puts it, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). He is the only way out of sin (John 14:6). We must resist the temptation to live according to our own imaginations and we must instead live by the spirit of Christ – the perfected image of God (Romans 8:13).
In short, we must once again boldly live by faith in God, who is love (1 John 4:16), and in his original instructions for us to love and care for the earth. God is pleased to return our dominion to us (Luke 12:32). Therefore, let us all pray as Jesus prays, “Let your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).