The Story of Scripture, Part 1 – Creation and Probation

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

In this very first verse of the Bible (Gen 1:1) the curtain opens, as it were, and the great Biblical drama begins. God calls all things into being by His sovereign decree, and his work moves quickly to a profound climax: He creates a man (Hebrew: Adam), with the perfect moral law written on his heart. Adam is made in his very own image; a priest and protector of the garden-sanctuary; a holy prophet of the garden-covenant (holding to the Word of God alone); a great king, having dominion and stewardship over all the earth. Then, from the king is brought a queen: the first women. Not only was she a gentle and beautiful covenantal companion for him, but also a unique and powerful helper in the great task that he was given. Mankind then, were made to multiply, prosper and have dominion; and they were unlike any other creatures in the universe. Under the rule of their federal head, king Adam; they would live as one holy nation in this perfect paradise theocracy.

God himself, the great glory-Spirit, was fully present in this garden temple-sanctuary. Adam, the holy sanctuary priest, would enjoy a rich, perfect, and prophetic communion with the Lord. Indeed, if all carried on in this way, the lives of Adam and those under his federal care, would be rich and full, as they all together worshipped and delighted in their creator, and the many gifts that He had given to them.

But the climax of creation was not merely in the making of mankind, for even king Adam was but a vassal king and it was always to be clear that Eden was a protectorate under the shield of Yahweh, the Great Suzerain; and he alone carried the title: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. To keep this truth before his vassal, the Sovereign Creator entered into his rest, taking his seat as the Great King, on a throne of eternal Sabbath glory. 

It was at this time that the garden covenant was made with Adam. It was to be a covenant of works, with both the curse of death for any transgression of the heart-law (in either its moral or positive aspects), and reward of life for obedience to the same. Moreover, by working for six days and then resting on the seventh, God had already modeled for Adam, that if he would work to keep these commandments, then he too could enter into the covenant blessing of an eternal Sabbath rest. In this way, the Garden of Eden was a time of great probation for Adam. If, as the federal head of humanity, he could execute his task well, both he and his posterity (i.e. the entire human race), and indeed the whole earth, would be brought into the final state, and be allowed to receive the covenant blessing: Sabbath rest from their labour, never again having to fear that they might be disobedient; eternal paradise with God on earth; heaven itself.  

This was the garden covenant then; “According to the terms of this probation arrangement, the promised sabbath rest must be merited by obedience, while, on the other hand the hope of that blessing would be forfeited by disobedience.”[1] And in this way, “Eden had sabbatical significance as a prototypal stage of the royal rest covenanted to man beyond his probationary mission”.[2]

During this period of probation, the unique positive component of the law was this: they were not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. Even in this restriction, however, Adam would have the chance to learn the joy of living as a trustful and dependant creature.[3] But his “covenant obligations were not limited to this one duty of guarding the sacred garden. There were other, long-range requirements, assignments pertaining to his offices as king and priest. In the event of a successful probation man must carry out the kingdom commission by culturally forming his world—populating it, taking possession of it, appropriating its resources, ruling it (Gen 1:28). He was also to be engaged in the fundamental function of priestly ministry, that is, the worship of God[3] . . .Only by way of meritorious work might man arrive at the eternal sabbath. It was by performing the specific probation assignment stipulated in the Creator’s covenant of works with him that Adam must earn for himself and the human race the reward of entitlement to the consummated kingdom.”[4]


  1. Kline, M. G. (2006). God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos (p. 63). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
  2. Ibid., p. 42.
  3. Bartholomew, C. and Goheen, M. The Story-Line of the Bible.
  4. Kline, M. G. (2006). God, Heaven and Har Magedon: A Covenantal Tale of Cosmos and Telos (p. 68). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
  5. Ibid., p. 65.

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