The Pair Expelled from the Garden: Part 3 of 3 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
and a flaming sword which turned everyway,
“And a flaming sword, which turned every way” literally means “the flame of a sword turning itself”; not brandished by the cherubim, but existing separately, and flashing out from among them; an emblem of the Divine glory in its attitude towards sin. Apparently it was in constant motion, cutting here and there, representing the devouring fire of the divine wrath, and showing the cherubim to be ministers of judgment.
to keep the way of the tree of life.
“To keep” means to watch over or guard (Genesis 2:15), “the way of the tree of life.” “To keep the…tree of life” might imply that all access to it was to be prohibited; but “to keep the way” signifies “to keep the way” open as well as to keep it shut. With the expulsion of man from the Garden of Eden, paradise itself vanished from the earth. God did not withdraw from the tree of life its supernatural power, nor did He destroy the garden before their eyes, but simply prevented their return, to show that it should be preserved until the time of the end, when sin would be rooted out by the judgment, and death abolished by the Conqueror of the serpent—“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26)—and when upon the new earth “the tree of life” would flourish again in the heavenly Jerusalem, and bear fruit for the redeemed (See Revelation 20:1-15 and 21). So, God does not annihilate the garden or its tree of life. Annihilation does not seem to be His way. On the other hand, he sets his cherubim “to keep the way of the tree of life.” This paradise, then, and its tree of life are in safe keeping. They are in reserve for those who will become entitled to them after an intervening period of trial and victory, and they will reappear in all their pristine glory and in all their
beauty to the high-born and new-born perfection of man. The sinful nature which has been infused into man will fall off, at least from the chosen number who take refuge in the mercy of God; and in all the freshness and freedom of a heaven-born nature.
By keeping the pair from ever having contact with the tree of life our God is showing them and us, that life and salvation are not to be had, unless the law and justice of God are satisfied; and that they were not to be expected on the foot of men's works, but only through Christ, the way, the truth, and the life; that no happiness should be expected to come from the covenant of works, nothing but wrath and vengeance; and that there must be another way opened, or there could be no enjoyment of the heavenly paradise.
It is clear that Adam never ate from the tree of life. Had he continued in fellowship with God by obedience to the command of God, he might have eaten of it, because he was created for eternal life.
This marks the beginning of The Second Dispensation: Conscience. By disobedience man came to a personal and experimental knowledge of good and evil—of good as obedience, of evil as disobedience to the known will of God. Through that knowledge conscience awoke. Expelled from Eden and placed under the second, or ADAMIC COVENANT, man was responsible to do all known good, to abstain from all known evil, and to approach God through sacrifice. The result of this second testing of man is stated in Gen 6:5—“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”—and this dispensation ended in the judgment of the Flood. Apparently "the east of the garden" (Gen 3:24), where the cherubim and the flame stood guard, remained the place of worship through this second dispensation.