"So He drove out the man; and He placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24).
Cherubim are among the most elusive creatures of the Bible. Like the carnal nature of Adam, they are ever so close, yet go unrecognized by the vast majority as they freely play their unsuspected role. The world sees them as cute baby angels flitting around and shooting people with arrows of love. Those more familiar with the Old Testament see them much differently; but they are not much closer to the truth. It is not uncommon for cherubim to be viewed as majestic angels who are almost worthy of worship, and in some cases they are worshiped. They may not be revered so highly on our part; but no doubt, we will be rather amazed when we see what cherubim (plural for cherub) really are.
The Bible itself does not say a lot about these secretive aberrations, but there is enough to give us a degree of understanding. Namely, that their purpose is to keep the way to the Tree of Life; which is to say, to prevent man's entry into Eden, the Garden of God. Knowing this alone should give us cause to praise God for all the Bibles ever written! For it pleased Him to hide the riches of His truths from the wise and prudent of the world. Each one has played its part in His great plan. In God's infinite wisdom He used the Bible itself to conceal His mysteries. I believe Jerome with his Latin Vulgate and King James with the poetic English, to name only two, were instruments of God, specifically ordained to cover the glory of His truths. And for what reason? So that only those who were in Christ could know His mysteries -- that only by the Spirit of revelation could His secrets be introduced, and later fully known.
Each version of the Bible has its share of errors. Even so, it is still the most wonderful handbook to have ever graced the earth. What would man have done without it? Its inspired word has been indispensable in his journey through the horrid wilderness of death. When God was mindful of man and made him a little lower than the angels (Elohim), communion in the light of the Spirit virtually ended. The tangible word in the form of the scriptures, therefore, became his source of direction. This handwritten letter testified that man's way back home from whence he came was Jesus Christ (John 5:39). The very presence of the scriptures was a strong statement that his paradise had been lost.
Isn't it obvious that the Bible itself is a testimony that man lost his ability to see and hear God? Otherwise, there would be no need for it. If everyone could see and hear God for themselves, why would we need a letter from Him? If we had unbroken communion, why would the Bible be needed? It wouldn't, for letters are written when people are separated one from the other -- not when they are together.
However, in all of men's searching the scriptures, when Jesus finally came, they failed to lay hold of the Way. They not only failed to grasp it, they refused it. They were not interested in going home, for they had fallen in love with the world. Due to this, their carnal minds focused on the letter rather than of Whom the letter spoke.
In man's gross ignorance, he reminds us of the mindless boy scout who wanted to do good, but missed the whole point: Upon seeing his friend drowning, instead of putting into practice what he was taught in his scout meetings, he whips out his trusted manual and reads to his friend the chapter on lifesaving techniques. While the poor lad is sinking for the third time, the last words he hears are -- "Just repeat after me . . . "
I know the above scenario is silly, but no more silly than what man and religion have been guilty of since his eviction from the Garden. He has tirelessly memorized the scriptures, but his book has not done him much good. Although unrealized, he never found in the Bible the life he sought (John 5:39-40). The scriptures upon which he built his dogmas have failed him more than he knows.
Nevertheless, when the Spirit opens the Bible's gate, a flood of revelation comes, and what was hidden beyond our fondest imaginations, Eden, the Garden of God, is seen once again. The thirst and hunger for communion is renewed as we behold the Tree of Life standing in the midst. The fine gold of Havilah (Genesis 2:11-12) that is richly woven throughout this wonderful and mysterious book becomes apparent. We desire it, along with all the other rich blessings of His Kingdom. The written page comes alive as our eyes are fixed upon its glory; but please know, my dear friends -- seeing is not necessarily possessing. God made sure of that, when He placed the covering cherubim at its entrance -- preventing entry to anything less than the image of Christ. These winged creatures were sown into the Bible's very fabric, especially in the uncountable translation errors they all contain. With them also was assigned a ribbon of fire, a flaming sword, and it turns every which way. If you happen to get past many of the errors by delving into the Hebrew and Greek, the journey back to Eden may not necessarily be over. The fire of the letter can still be present, and if so, it will cut to pieces and burn any flesh that comes near. These diligent sentinels were set for the express purpose of guarding and denying access to the Way of the Tree of Life. Without a change, man's return is impossible.
Jesus rejoiced at such a thought, and so do we. He said, ". . . I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight" (Luke 10:21). How assuring it is to know that the wealth of His Kingdom is not indiscriminately scattered to be trampled underfoot of the unrepentant and unregenerate Adam of the world. Such sacred things are reserved for those of His family -- they who are heirs of the mysteries of the Kingdom (James 2:5). No man, woman, or child who abides outside of Jesus Christ will ever know, or understand, even the simplest of these unsearchable riches. "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33). Brethren, we can sift through all the Bibles of the world; but none of them will bring us one wit closer to the knowledge of the Truth. Until we are baptized into Christ -- He who is the Truth -- the cherubim and flaming sword will prevent our entry.
Let us pause for a moment and notice more closely the cherubim. In scripture they are creatures of the heavens, and in their realm of dominion, they are dreadfully powerful, and carry tremendous authority -- but there is more. Although this Hebrew word for cherubim (keruwbim) is not clearly understood, even by the Hebrew scholars, we can glean a fragment of understanding from Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, and coupled with the Spirit of revelation, the window to the heavens can be opened. The first word given is the common transliteration of keruwb, which is 'cherub.' Transliterations, however, are not true translations. When a word is transliterated, one or two letters are merely changed to make it look and sound like the new language. Thus, we get 'cherub' from 'keruwb.' Strong's does, however, include in its definition that they are 'imaginary figures.'
IMAGINARY FIGURES? Yes! IMAGINARY FIGURES! CHERUBIM are IMAGINARY THINGS, IMAGES IN THE MIND, if you please, and let us be reminded that imaginary things lack substance. In essence, cherubim are IMAGINATIONS, shadows, figments and figures of the true! These imaginary figures have wings and were seen by Ezekiel in the heavens. Anyone schooled in spiritual matters at all realizes that the heavens are not those above our natural heads, but are those in our heads. These winged creatures are within and not without. From the heavens of the mind come thoughts winging their way into our lives. They take shape as intangible imaginations.
No doubt, these images can be from God or from man, for all things originate in the mind before they are seen in the world. We see this process early on in the book of Genesis: "Let us make man in our IMAGE . . ." i.e., in our IMAGINATION, according to our THOUGHT (Genesis 1:26). "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them" (Genesis 1:27).
The word for image (tselem) here is not the same Hebrew word for cherub (keruwb), but their meanings are close enough to be synonymous: Tselem, according to Strong's, means ". . . to shade; a phantom, i.e. (fig.) illusion, resemblance; hence a representative figure, especially an idol."
In essence, man in the image of God was a shade, a phantom, a thought, an imagination of God that was eventually given form. He was like God, for he came out of God, and this being so, man had the same ability to think -- to form imaginations (cherubim).
I truly cannot see how the cherubim can be separated from God or man; for the heavens wherein the winged cherubim dwell are found in both. Nevertheless, these cherubim can be vastly different from one another. The difference lies in their origin. Both God and man are called Elohim in the Hebrew, both have the ability to create; but fallen man's creations come from a desperately wicked heart (Jeremiah 17:9), while God's heart is absolutely pure.
All the sacred things that pertain to the tree of Life have cherubim placed at their borders -- and the Bible is no exception. Jesus enforced this thought when He said, "You search the scriptures; for in them ye THINK ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me, And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39-40).
Pharisees, past and present, have searched the scriptures, thinking, or should we say, 'IMAGINING' their dogmas are the way into the Garden wherein the fruit of the tree of Life can once again be eaten. They are flooded by the scriptures in their seminaries, churches, conventions, gatherings, Bible studies, and countless other teaching places, but seldom come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Even so, we should not gloat, for we ourselves have done the same. But praise God, in our journey we found that neither the scriptures, nor our imaginations of the scriptures, are the Way. They are not the Truth nor the Life we seek. Jesus alone is! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life! The scriptures testify of Him, but those letters never were, nor will they ever be that precious Life.
There are, indeed, untold riches of Eden's Garden detailed in the confines of the Bible, but they are of no spiritual worth until they become reality in one's own life. And cherubim (imaginations) have been placed there to guarantee it; until, of course, Christ makes the Way.
Since most translations are literally encumbered by thousands of translation errors, more teachers are turning to the Hebrew and Greek for greater understanding of spiritual matters. This, however, is not the answer either. For even if all the original manuscripts were discovered, being spring-water pure, the cherubim and sword would still be present in men's minds. Without the anointing of Christ, they would still be the letter that kills.
The original Hebrew-Chaldee, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts, as pure and undefiled as they might be, would still have their dutiful guards posted. They would stand firm and permit no carnal creature inside the secret chambers of which the scriptures testify. The cherubim (imaginations), would take flight through the heavens of men's minds, giving the illusion that the way back to Eden had been found, but that is all it would be -- illusions. Without the revelation of the Spirit, men would continue probing around in the intellectual world of imaginations, and never come to the knowledge of the truth. They would gather more knowledge that puffs up, as Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 8:1) -- but life would still evade them.
I love the Hebrew and Greek, but I also know there is no more life in those ancient tongues than in the modern ones of today. Regardless, whether it is an ancient language, or one we speak today, they are all hedged about with cherubim and the flaming sword; until, of course, they are rent and cut asunder in our own veils. It is not the accuracy of the letter wherein life is found, but in the Spirit of the Word, regardless of the language or flawlessness of the written word. The watchful cherubim and the flaming sword prevent the invasion of the natural eye or intrusion of the carnal mind. Unless one is born from above, as Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:3), he can't even see the Kingdom of God, much less live in it and eat its fruit.
I believe the law is much like the stone that concealed our Lord in the Garden where He was buried. For instance, the law was written in stone and concealed God, and it was a stone that covered the sepulcher of Jesus and concealed Him. Therefore, when the law in stone is removed, the Lord will be seen rising out of the tomb of carnal reasoning and freed from the binding grave-clothes of human logic. Listen to what Paul said about these stones: "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart." (2 Corintians 3:3).
When He writes upon our pliable hearts, we see and manifest Him; but as long as the heart of stone remains, wherein the law is written, Christ will remain in obscurity. Until the resurrected Christ is seen standing in the garden of tombs, we will be in darkness and void of Life. When the time arrives, however, for the Way of Life to come forth, the cherubim guarding the tomb shall sleep, the sealed stone will be rolled away, and Christ will rise alive in victory. He will rise out of the scriptures -- ALIVE! He will no longer be a lifeless imagination in men's minds. He will not be a letter without substance that renders death -- but an ascended reality in their heavens that gives life! They shall not seek Him among the dead, but among the living, and in the heavens within they shall find Him and live!
It is interesting, the first Adam died in Eden, the Garden of Life, and took creation to the grave with him -- while the last Adam rose up alive in the garden of death, and is taking the same creation back to the Father with Him -- alive. The first Adam destroyed life, and the Last Adam destroyed death. What a wonderful distinction and hope for all.
It matters not if the printed word is overflowing with errors. When the time comes for hungry souls to hear the Voice of the Son of God, they will hear and live. On the other hand, if the letter is as pure as the driven snow, but the heart is that of stone, the cherubim and sword of men's minds will prevent them from plucking the fruit of the Tree of Life. And the crux is, even after one is born of the Spirit, they still have the cherubim and flaming sword to contend with. Both will remain as long as the law remains in their hearts of stone.
The Letter of the Law is so adverse to the Word that there is little resemblance. While the letter is dead and kills, profiting little (2 Corinthians 3:6, John 6:63), the Spirit and the Word abound greatly. "For THE WORD OF GOD is QUICK (Living) and POWERFUL, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:12-13). Where the letter conceals God's truths, the Living Word reveals them. It lays all things open and bare. What a contrast between the flesh and the Spirit. There is the Sword of the Spirit, and there is a sword of the flesh. There is a quickening Word and there is a killing word. On one hand, the inspired Word reveals the wilderness that lies deep in the flesh of man, while the uninspired word conceals the Paradise of God, which also resides in the same man.
THE FLAMING SWORD
The Flaming Sword that was placed east of Eden has often been said to be the Living Word of God; but this thought does not stand firm in the light of truth. A SWORD speaks of A WORD, but it does not always refer to the LIVING WORD. While the Word of God is indeed quick (Living) and powerful, revealing what is in man, as mentioned above, the sword at the east side of the Garden conceals the same things, whether good or evil. Also, the east generally deals with man looking to self (the soul) for the solution to his problems and the way back to paradise. But it won't happen, for there is no way, other than through Christ, to get past the strategically placed sentinels.
The Letter of the Word ministers death as it darkens our way; but praise God, Christ, the Living Word ministers Life and illumines our path: "For Thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the LIGHT of the living?" (Psalm 56:13). "Thy word is a LAMP unto my feet, and a LIGHT unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). "Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give LIGHT to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, TO GUIDE OUR FEET INTO THE WAY OF PEACE" (Luke 1:78-79).
The flaming sword that keeps, or hedges in the tree of life, as it is more accurately translated, does none of those things we see the Word of God doing. It simply can't, for it is death. There is no life in it to give. It represents a law that is rooted in the dos and don'ts of the carnal mind of man. It may give him moral direction, but it lacks life. This sword is THE MINISTRATION OF DEATH, and not of Life. Anyone who approaches unto it shall die.
J. Preston Eby, our dear friend and anointed writer in Christ, placed in print some excellent thoughts concerning this subject of the Flaming Sword, which follows in part: "It is important to note that the sole purpose of the Cherubim with the flaming sword was to KEEP MAN OUT from life! The flaming sword did not minister life, but death. It did not impart life, neither did it point to life nor lead to it. It was a SWORD OF DEATH . . . a WORD OF DEATH! It was not the sword of the Spirit, but the sword of the letter of the Word!
"Ah, beloved, the law (the flaming sword) is not the way to God, neither does it point, direct or guide man back into life, instead it bars the sinner from coming to God. It says, 'Do this, or die. Keep this, or perish.' The law, ANY LAW, was not designed to save a single member of Adam's fallen race, or to keep one saved, but rather to cause us to look elsewhere . . . And I must state with the greatest possible clarity that nowhere in all the world has the FORM OF TRUTH, EMPTY EXTERNAL CEREMONIES, ORDINANCES and RITUALS held more deadly sway than in the church system. The flaming sword of the dead LETTER OF THE WORD has slashed its way from the pulpits until the precious life of the Spirit has been lost and the horrid stench of death hangs like a shroud over God's people. Moses' law or the manmade rules and rituals of your church, it makes no difference, my friend, ALL LAW is a DEAD WORD and will kill you!" -- End quote.
The LIVING WORD, on the other hand, will cause you to live. It will cut away the cherubim, the imaginations that fly through the heavens of your minds. It is living and powerful and infinitely sharp. It pierces and separates the soul and Spirit. It brings to light every thought, desire, and intent of the heart. It separates that which is of the Spirit and that which is of the flesh. Everyone and everything is made manifest by the Word of God. Every vestige of the clothing of flesh is consumed, leaving all who pass through this Sword naked, opened wide, and vibrantly alive in Christ!
Truly, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, as the prophet wrote of the Lord in Isaiah 55:8. If it had been left to us, we would have placed Eden in the grasp of the imaginations of the carnal mind. In so doing, we could have gone back and lived forever in our fallen state. We would have trusted in our own precepts to reveal the way to the tree of Life. We certainly wouldn't have used our subjected thoughts of the law to hedge it in and keep us out. To the contrary, we would have made that our ticket in. Nevertheless, those things we mistakenly deemed as the way, are sentries that prevent the way. They will stand firm until it is time for life to break forth. That's the way it is, brethren, whether we like it or not.
The cherubim and the letter coupled together will kindle an illusion that we stand once again in Eden. If not that, it projects a shimmering mirage across the barren desert of our hearts, and falsely says, "This is the way, walk ye toward it." But illusions are not realities, are they?
Our imaginative minds will take the written word and create apparitions much like the magicians of old. They used flashes of fire, smoke, and the beat of spellbinding drums to make things appear as though they were real. A flaming sword in the hands of the cherubim speaks clearly of the same deception. For instance, the Hebrew word for FLAMING (lahat) in Genesis 3:24 is the same word used for ENCHANTMENTS in the seventh chapter of Exodus:
"Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their ENCHANTMENTS (lahat)" (Exodus 7:11). Strong's defines the word as: "a blaze; also (from the idea of ENWRAPPING) MAGIC (AS COVERT)." And Gensenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon of the Old Testament has lahat as meaning not only "a flame, hence flaming steel of a sword" but also says that it means "INCANTATIONS."
Armed with this understanding, we must not suppose, however, that every place this word is found, it should be translated as 'enchantments' or 'incantations.' We would mislead ourselves if we did; for more often than not, the only way lahat can be translated is as a flame, to kindle, burn, fire, etc. Nevertheless, this mysterious element 'lahat' that covertly covers the sword of the cherubim in Genesis 3:24 can be translated very well as 'enchanting incantations.' Such incantations of magic that shroud the letter of the word will kill anyone who attempts to use it as a means back to Eden, even as the apostle told us: "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6).
Before closing, let us also notice the Hebrew meaning for 'SWORD.' The word is 'CHEREB,' and as a point of interest, we cannot help from noticing its almost identical spelling to 'cherub.' Albeit, the word means:
"Drought; also a cutting instrument (from its destructive effect), as a knife, sword, or other sharp implement." The root word for chereb is charab which means: "To parch (through drought), i.e. (by anal.) to desolate, destroy, kill."
Although the Sword can symbolize the Word of God; we should consider what a sword is. Namely, it is a weapon of war. When the Word of God is referred to as a sword, it is in context with war, judgment, and destruction (ref. Isa 1:20, 49:2, Eph 6:17, Heb 4:12, Rev 1:16, 2:16, 19:12,21). The Sword, unlike the Dove, is a word used by God in a severe way when dealing with His people, or His enemies. Where the Word of the Dove brings peace and unity, the Word of the Sword brings war and division. In one place Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). Yet we know He is the prince of peace, and the sword is not the only word He brings.
The point is, regardless of whose hands the sword is in, it brings devastation, famine, and destruction. The letter of the word kills and destroys all upon whom it falls. That is its nature. Truly, it brings drought to the souls it pierces. It cuts and slashes, leaving its victims hurting and bleeding. This sword, however, is not a one-way street, for it is also measured back to the ones who live by the sword -- heaped up, pressed down, and running over. The truth is, whether the word is living or dead, it will minister the same life or death to its speaker (Proverbs 18:20-21). Paul said that the ones who wield the sword of the law will be judged by the same law (Romans 2:12). Revelation 13:10 says it like this: "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword." Or in the context of our thought: He that leads others into captivity by way of the dead dogmas shall go into the same captivity; and he that kills by the letter of the law shall likewise be killed by it. Truly, the husbandman that labors must be first partaker of the fruits (2 Timothy 2:6). Whether the fruit is that of life or that of death, he must eat it, it cannot be avoided (Proverbs 18:20-21). In the case of the cherubim and the flaming sword -- the fruit is death. They are faithful guards who make sure the way of the Tree of Life is kept. Otherwise, any derelict could hide under the shadow of the cherubim's wings, and cut his way through the hedge of the Garden. The violent could take the Kingdom by force and hold it forever. But such sorcery will not prevail against the Church. It will serve only to slay her assailants. Every casualty will ultimately come to know that there is a better way -- which we know, of course, to be our Lord Jesus Christ.
Elwin R. Roach
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