What Does a Breaking World Sound Like?
The Effects of the Fall
When a floating shelf fell from our living room wall, we heard multiple sounds at the same time. The small clay pot cracked, the frame with the picture crashed, the shelf itself was especially loud, the candleholder clattered, and a short rectangular wooden sign whacked the floor. Sitting in the living room as this happened, my wife and I jumped up to intervene and deal with the mess. It turns out that one of our sons had been on the other side of the wall and banged it at the right—or wrong—spot, causing the shelf to shift and collapse under the weight of its contents.
Not every fall is the same. But the more items involved and the greater their weight, the louder the crash and more numerous the sounds.
Short of Glory
Mitchell L. Chase
In this accessible book, Mitchell Chase identifies biblical themes found in Genesis 3, explaining why they are essential to understanding the biblical narrative and identifying why these themes are crucial for believers today.
What would a breaking world sound like? And how long would the sounds of such a fall last?
Genesis 3 gives Bible readers the explanation of what happened between Genesis 2 and 4. The middle chapter ushers us into different conditions. In Genesis 2, the man and woman are together and without shame and in covenant with each other. The garden has plentiful food, there is a commission to multiply and subdue, and there is a benevolent Creator, whose words of wisdom will be life and peace for his image bearers. Then in Genesis 4, an older brother murders his younger brother, and this tragedy happens after the elder’s sacrifice is rejected while the younger’s is accepted.
What explains the transition from peace to tragedy? What accounts for the rise of wickedness? The content of Genesis 3. It’s the scene that changes everything for everyone. It’s the part of the movie that has such explanatory power, you’re just confused if you return after leaving the room for a few minutes.
During a series of talks addressing temptation, D. A. Carson once said:
What’s the importance of Genesis 3 to our thinking? The primary importance is that it sets the stage for the entire Bible storyline. Problems and solutions must match. If you want to understand what the Gospel is about, what Jesus is about, what the cross achieves, then you must understand the nature of the problem they address.1
There are different ways to conceive of the Bible’s storyline. You can think of the Old Testament as what anticipates Jesus and the New Testament as what announces his arrival. You can view Scripture as the epic of God’s redemptive story where he promises, advances, and then fulfills his plan to raise up a Savior for sinners. You can notice how the Bible begins with the story of creation and ends with the hope of new creation.
One helpful and popular way to conceive of the Bible’s storyline is with four words: creation, fall, redemption, consummation. What would consummation mean without our understanding of what was reaching a culmination? We need the category of redemption in order to make sense of the biblical story. And yet we know that redemption isn’t something needed because of creation. The story of creation was about our good God making a good world. He didn’t make a broken world.
When we look around us and within us, a truth is clear: not all is well in God’s world and in God’s image bearers. We see destruction, disease, and death. We see wickedness and false worship. Signs of corruption—ethically and physically—are everywhere. Things are not the way they once were or will be. In the order of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, the unpleasant reality of the fall is evident. We must grasp it, process it, reflect on it.
The word fall is shorthand for the rebellion and repercussions that began in the garden of Eden in Genesis 3. The fall is what happened to God’s creation, and it’s why there is a need for redemption. We live as fallen people in a fallen world. The hope of consummation tells us that the conditions of the fall are temporary. All things will be made new, even though that’s not the way things look right now. To grow in our understanding of the Bible’s big story, we must think about the fall. We must know what happened, why it happened, and what followed.
Ground for Later Growth
Maybe you already think you know what happened in Genesis 3. “Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the face of temptation,” you say, “and then judgments followed that have affected us all ever since.”
But would you be willing to think more deeply and slowly about this chapter, connecting its themes with the rest of Scripture?
All of us are born outside Eden, so Genesis 1–3 is a special set of chapters. God makes the world, and specifically a garden, for his people. And there, in the sacred space of Eden, God’s image bearers defy his word and succumb to the tempter. When God exiles them, we are exiled in them too. Yet, in that same chapter where God announces judgment, he gives a promise of hope that a deliverer will come one day and defeat the serpent.
The hope of consummation tells us that the conditions of the fall are temporary.
The rest of the biblical story grows out of the ground of Genesis 3. When we meditate on the content of this chapter, many biblical themes and connections become clear. The events in Genesis 3 become a lens through which to read and understand the progressive revelation of God’s redemptive epic.2
Think of Genesis 3 as containing seeds of various kinds. There are temptation and shame and coverings. There are a tree of wisdom and one of life. There are messianic hope, the reality of death in the dust, and exile from sacred space. There are blame shifting, hiding, and a response of faith.
If we will spend time thinking about the intricacies of Genesis 3 and the interconnections across Scripture, we will see how pivotal this chapter is in the biblical storyline, and we will recognize the many notions that grow out of the garden ground. If we situate the fall in Scripture’s storyline effectively, an exploration of Genesis 3 will result in greater joy in the good news about Jesus. By tuning our ears to creation’s groanings, our hope will be stirred along the way. In Romans 8, the apostle Paul says:
Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (8:19–21)
While Genesis 3 announces the subjection of creation to futility, that status is not permanent. Corruption will give way to new creation by the power of God. If you are in Christ, did you know that your future is glory?
As you consider Genesis 3 and its innerbiblical connections and consequences, my prayer is that your hope will be stirred, that you will join the groans of creation longing for liberation. Genesis 3 records tragedy, yes, but it doesn’t record only that. Interwoven amid deception and fig leaves and exile is a hope for a future Son. Tragedy is mixed with hope, and one day that hope became flesh and dwelt among us.
- D. A. Carson, “The Temptation of Adam and Eve” (lecture given as part of a series entitled “The Christian Life: Fighting Temptation,” Bethesda Baptist Church, Allen Park, Michigan, August 27, 2013)
- According to T. Desmond Alexander, “The events of Genesis 3 are exceptionally important for understanding the biblical meta-story.” From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology(Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2008), 102.
This article is adapted from Short of Glory: A Biblical and Theological Exploration of the Fall by Mitchell L. Chase.
Should Science Inform Our Reading of Genesis 1–3?
What do we do if we find an apparent discrepancy between Genesis 1-3 and what modern scientists claim about the origin of the world?
The foundation stories of Genesis set the stage of the drama of Scripture in many ways.
10 Things You Should Know about Genesis 1–3
Human persons have deep significance. We alone among the earthly creatures are made in the image of God.
How to Flourish in a Fallen World
When the man and woman sinned against God, they were expelled from his presence, driven out of Eden.