The Fall

Before the Fall

One of the things which we all look forward to, and which always gives us a lot of pleasure, is going out with our friends or having them round to our home; and the more we like them the happier we are.

So when human beings first appeared on the earth, they were very happy because they and God were such good friends.  The better they knew God, the more they loved him and found it very easy to please him in everything.  The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis tells the fate of one family as typical of what happened to these first human beings on the earth. 

All the time human beings put God at the centre of their lives they were ‘at one’ with God; they were his friends.  The Bible calls this happy world of long ago the Garden of Eden, and as we say, everything in the garden was lovely.  God himself used to walk with them in the Garden, or to put it another way, human beings walked with God.  They enjoyed a personal relationship with him which was happy and unspoilt.  There was no sorrow, nor was there death as we know it now.  What would have happened when human beings’ life on earth came to an end we don’t know, but perhaps their bodies would have changed and they would have been taken to Heaven immediately to go on living with God there.

The Fall

It would be very nice if the world were still like that, but it is not.  No one now finds it easy to love God or to do what is right, and the Bible tells us why.

You’ll remember that the Devil wanted to get the world under his own power.  Well, he now thought he saw the way to do it.  He began by putting ideas into the heads of human beings.  “Why should you love God best of all?  Why not put yourself first?  Go on, please yourself once in a while: never mind about God”.  So human beings pleased themselves by doing on purpose what they knew to be wrong.

The Bible explains this by picturing the Devil as a snake who slides up and persuades Adam and Eve to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

There was absolutely no excuse for human beings to sin against God like that because they found it so easy and pleasant to obey him.  However they did it, and from that moment everything went wrong.  Everything in the garden was no longer lovely.

Results of the Fall

Relationship with God

The first thing that happened was that human beings found they had smashed their friendship with God and separated themselves from him.

Suppose you had a great friend, and one day you played a particularly mean trick on him or her.  The next morning, when you are out you, see your friend coming along the road in your direction.  Now it so happens that at the moment you catch sight of your friend you have just reached a side road.  What would you do?  Turn down the side road as quickly as you can.  That is to say, your wrongdoing, your sin, parts or separates you from your friend.

So it was that the sin of human beings separated them from God.  As the Bible says, Adam and Eve “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (NRSV, Genesis 3:8).  They wanted to get away from him.

Human beings now found that, once having fallen away from God, it was quite impossible for them to go on doing right.  They could no longer go straight, as we say.

If you’ve ever watched people playing a game of bowls, you’ll have noticed the odd way that the big black balls roll.  They swing away from one side or the other.  This is because each has a bias, that is, a piece of lead in it which makes one side heavier than the other.  The result is that it’s impossible for it to go straight.

So human beings found that they had a bias, not to the right or the left, but to evil.  Not only were they unable to do right, but very often they didn’t even want to.  So human beings told their first lie – Adam told God that he was hiding because he was naked.  That was not true because he had made clothes of fig leaves.  Notice, too, how Adam and Eve didn’t take responsibility for the choices they made.  Adam blamed Eve, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit from the tree, and I ate” (NRSV, Genesis 3:12).  And Eve said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate” (NRSV, Genesis 3:13).

The end of human beings’ life on earth was very different now from what is would have been.  When they died their bodies turned to dust.  As God said to Adam and Eve, “…you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (NRSV, Genesis 3:19).

The old happy world was no more.  This is represented in Genesis by Adam and Eve no longer being able to stay in the Garden of Eden.

This first sin of the human race, when they fell away from God, we call the Fall.  Since the Fall a race of human beings altogether different from that before the Fall now lives on the earth.  Each of us is now born with this bias to evil (known as original sin), and that is why we all find it so hard to love God and do the right thing.

Relationship with other human beings

The Bible makes the point that the sin of Adam and Eve disrupted human relationships – their sin led to the first murder (Genesis: chapter 4). (1)

Relationship with the environment

In the story of Adam and Eve, God gave Adam responsibility for looking after the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).  However, in eating the forbidden fruit Adam and Eve spoilt their relationship with the natural environment – they exploited it for their own ends, instead of acting as stewards. (2)

The remedy

The Fall made things so bad that only God could mend them.  Two things had to be done.  First God had to smash the Devil’s power.  Secondly, he had to make it possible for us to conquer the evil within ourselves and live happily with him in Heaven.

Both these things he knew he could do by coming into this world himself.  So it was that many years later, in his love for us, God the Son became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ.  He came to:

  • save us from the evil around us and within us;
  • bring us back to himself;
  • help us become our best selves by changing us into his likeness.

The cost of his coming was the Crucifixion.

The Book of Genesis gives the first ray of hope for humankind: “The Lord God said to the serpent…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (NRSV, 3:14, 15).  So the Devil and the woman, and their descendants, are to be set against each other and one of the woman’s descendants (Jesus) will strike the Devil’s head, that is, overcome the Devil.

God’s plan for creation

The Fall didn’t only affect human beings – it affected the whole of creation, which though created as “very good” became flawed.  The goodness of the created order has been disrupted, mainly as a result of humanity’s unwillingness to act as God’s stewards.  Instead, human beings have wanted to dominate and exploit creation for their own purposes.  So the harmony of creation has been ruptured, causing an enormous amount of pain and disorder.  Rather like a computer virus, it means nothing quite works in the way it should. (3)

So Jesus came to restore the broken harmony and unity, not only of human beings and God, but of all Creation.  As St Paul wrote, ”…the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (NRSV, Romans 8:21).  And in the Book of Revelation we read that God will make all things new and there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:5,1).

God has yet to complete his original plan for creation but when he does, thousands and thousands of angels, and people of every race and language and nation, and “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them”, will make their adoring response to the love and beauty and perfection of God (NRSV, Revelation 5:9-14).


1. Once human beings loved God above everything and took a delight in pleasing him in every way.

2. Then human beings obeyed the Devil, the spiritual and personal power of evil, and pleased themselves by doing on purpose what they knew to be wrong.

3. So human beings separated themselves from God and became unable to go on doing right or to be the kind of people they were meant to be.

4. God’s answer was to put things right himself by becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ.  He came to:

  • save us from the evil around us and within us;
  • bring us back to himself;
  • help us become our best selves by changing us into his likeness.

5. Jesus came to heal the divisions and conflicts of the whole of creation.  God has yet to complete his original plan for creation.


1) Tomlin, G. (2006) ‘Salvation’ In McGrath, A. (editor) The new Lion handbook of Christian belief, Oxford: Lion Hudson.
2) Tomlin, G. (2006) op cit
3) Tomlin, G. (2006) op cit