Symbols
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Summary: Explore the symbols in Genesis 3 on a deeper level.
 
 

In the Adam and Eve story, we discussed the overall theme of the plan of salvation. We saw how it was instituted in the Garden of Eden despite the fact that Jesus Christ fulfilled the plan at His crucifixion 4000 years later. Now that we have an idea of the plan of salvation, let’s explore the symbols in this story on a deeper level. The chart below summarizes the symbols seen in Genesis 3, their meanings and the Scriptures to help you understand each meaning at a glance; however, we invite you to dive deeper into their meanings in this article. 

Symbol

Meaning

Scriptures

Nakedness

The shame of our sinful lives.

Genesis 3:10; Revelation 3:18; Revelation 16:15

Clothing of fig leaves (Man’s clothing)

Our unrighteous deeds / attempts at justifying ourselves

Genesis 3:7; Isaiah 59:6; Isaiah 64:6; Zecariah 3:1-4

Clothing of skin 

(God’s clothing)

Christ’s righteous life 

Isaiah 61:10; Romans 13:14; Revelation 3:18

The Lamb

The sacrificial offering for our sins / Jesus Christ

Genesis 22:8; John 1:29, Leviticus ch 4; Isaiah 53:7

Nakedness

The first consequence of sin mentioned in Genesis 3 was that Adam and Eve’s “eyes… were opened, and they knew that they were naked…”. They recognized that they were not perfect, holy or fully happy anymore. They had a sense of their guilt and shame, and when God was ”walking in the garden”​​, they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). This wasn’t something that God desired, it was a natural result of sin. However, God went looking for them. He wanted to rebuild their trust in Him and let them know that their sins would be “covered” (Notice Isaiah 1:18 and Isaiah 44:22). 

God doesn’t want salvation to be a secret. He wants everyone to know that He wants to hide their sins and that He has already paid the price for our faults. The only way this is possible is if we humbly acknowledge that we have broken the law of God and that we are inclined to do evil (Romans 3:23; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 8). Once we recognize our sins, we must confess and renounce them and accept that we can’t save ourselves but, rather, we need a Savior from sin (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 5:3-4; Matthew 1:21). Once we accept Christ, His life becomes ours and our sins fall under the sacrifice of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). No longer do we have to worry about “judgment day” as long as we continue to believe and accept the righteousness of Christ, day by day.

Clothing of Fig Leaves

When the knowledge of sin came to Adam and Eve, the first thing they tried to do was to “cover up” themselves. This represents them trying to hide the results of their actions. The Bible clearly shows us that our “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). The word “rags” in the Hebrew means garments and/or clothing. In essence, our good actions are tainted with evil. Our good choices, many times, come from a selfish heart and, thus, are unrighteous before God. Oftentimes, we self-justify. We claim that we have had “decent” or “good” lives. We may say we haven’t done anyone harm or broken any civil laws. The fact stands, we have broken the law of God at some point in our lives. According to the law, even the very thought of something unrighteous is a sin. The penalty for that is death. There’s no way around it. Any attempt to justify our lives or do good deeds in order to prove ourselves as “good people” is to put on fig leaves. It’s to present our own lives and works as acceptable to God. Though they are a form of righteousness, they are filthy in God’s eyes. Thus, they are not acceptable just as much as the clothing of fig leaves weren’t acceptable in the Garden of Eden.

Clothing of Skin

Being that Adam and Eve were clothed with “skin”, one must ask the question, “Where did the skin come from?”. It must have been an awful scene for Adam and Eve, who never witnessed death, to see their clothing provided by the skin of an innocent creature. In order for this animal’s skin to be provided, there must have been an animal sacrifice. As Hebrews 9:22 indicates, “without shedding of blood is no remission”. Hebrews is trying to explain this concept that death had to occur for humanity to be forgiven. Although the punishment was not given to the individual who committed the sin initially, somehow the punishment must occur. The innocent being that was killed for Adam and Eve’s sake symbolizes the sacrifice that was made for our sins by Jesus Christ. 

When we acknowledge that our works are unacceptable and a sacrifice must be made on behalf of ourselves, we must also recognize that Christ’s life was acceptable to God, and we must accept, by faith, His substitution for our sinful life. If we do not accept the sacrifice He made on our behalf, then there is only the bitter knowledge that we have broken the law of God and are condemned to death. But, when we personally accept what Christ did for us, both in life and in death, there is a sweet assurance of our standing with the God of the universe. In John 17:4, Jesus said, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Jesus did exactly what God wanted Him to do without deviating. He served the LORD perfectly and without sin which is why the Bible says He was as a “lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). Then, after living perfectly for 33 years, He paid the price for our sins with His death.

We must study this concept a bit closer. There is a difference between Christ’s life and His death. They both are crucial for the plan of salvation. We will go over His death first.

"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."  1 John 2:2 (KJV)

Technically speaking, Christ’s death paid for the sins of the whole world. This means that Christ’s death benefits everyone, those who accept Him and those who don’t. Every blessing that mankind receives, whether a Christian or not, is because of Christ’s death. As the Bible says, God makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good (Matthew 5:45). Not everyone will accept Christ but Christ died for them anyway, that they may have an opportunity to choose everlasting life. Additionally, if it weren’t for the sacrifice of Christ, no one would have life as it is today. No one could experience the mercy and love of God because all humanity would have been lost. 

Christ’s perfect life is equally crucial to the plan of salvation. We have all fallen short and sinned, and these sins need not only to be forgiven, but they need to be as if they were never committed. God says, He has “blotted out” the sins (Isa 44:22) of His people. Hebrews 8:12 tells us that God will, essentially, forget our sins completely. It is the perfect life of Christ that will be applied to His people. His perfect life will “cover” our sinful lives and there will be no need to ever remind us, the angels or God Himself, of any of the evils we’ve ever done. Better yet, Christ’s life can be claimed as ours. We are righteous, because of Him. Notice this quote that sums it up:

Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” The Desire of Ages pg 25

  Now that we’ve looked at the symbols of “nakedness”, “fig leaves” and “clothing of skin”, there is just one more symbol we need to cover, “the Lamb”. This is the most important symbol in Genesis 3 and requires a deeper look than the rest. We'll uncover the depth of this symbol, next


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