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.
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.
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?