WHY do many struggle without finding any real meaning in their lives? “Man, born of woman, is short-lived and glutted with agitation. Like a blossom he has come forth and is cut off, and he runs away like the shadow and does not keep existing.” (Job 14:1, 2) Something that ruined the bright prospects of mankind happened to the first human couple in Paradise.
2 For the human family to be genuinely happy, they must have a good relationship with God—one that is voluntary, not forced. (Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Joshua 24:15) Jehovah wants obedience and worship that come from the heart, out of love. (Deuteronomy 6:5) So in the garden of Eden, Jehovah made a restriction that afforded the first man an opportunity to prove his heartfelt loyalty. “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction,” God told Adam, “but as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) It was a simple test. Jehovah forbade Adam to eat the fruit of just one tree out of all the trees in the garden. That tree symbolized the all-wise Creator’s right to decide what is good and what is bad. The first man conveyed this God-given command to his wife, whom Jehovah provided “as a complement of [Adam].” (Genesis 2:18) They were both satisfied with this arrangement—to live under God’s rulership—appreciatively submitting to his will and thereby expressing their love for their Creator and Life-Giver.
3 Then one day a serpent spoke to Eve and asked: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” Eve answered that they were prohibited from eating the fruit of only “the tree that is in the middle of the garden,” the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, ‘that they would not die.’—Genesis 3:1-3.
4 Who was this serpent? The Bible book of Revelation identifies “the original serpent” as “the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9) Did God create Satan the Devil? No, Jehovah’s works are perfect and good. (Deuteronomy 32:4) This spirit creature made himself both the Devil, meaning “Slanderer,” and Satan, meaning “Resister.” He was “drawn out and enticed by his own desire,” the desire to be in God’s place, and he set out to rebel against the Creator.—James 1:14.
5 Satan the Devil went on to say to Eve: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:4, 5) Satan made eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad seem appealing. In essence, he argued: ‘God is withholding something good from you. Just eat from the tree, and you will be like God and will be able to decide for yourself what is good and what is bad.’ Today Satan is still using this line of reasoning to keep many from serving God. ‘Do your own thing,’ he says. ‘Just ignore what you owe to the One who gave you life.’—Revelation 4:11.
6 The fruit of the tree suddenly became something to be longed for, something irresistible! Eve took the fruit, ate it, and then offered some to her husband. Though being fully aware of the consequences, Adam listened to his wife’s voice and ate the fruit. What was the result? To the woman, Jehovah handed down the following sentence: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in birth pangs you will bring forth children, and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” And to the man? “Cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And thorns and thistles it will grow for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” Now Adam and Eve were left to seek happiness and satisfaction in their own way. Would the efforts of humans to live satisfying lives apart from the divine purpose succeed? The enjoyable work of tending the gardenlike Paradise and extending it to the extremities of the earth was replaced with the drudgery of working hard just to stay alive, doing nothing for the glory of their Creator.—Genesis 3:6-19.
7 On the day of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, the first human couple died in God’s eyes and headed downward toward their physical death. What happened to them when they finally died? The Bible gives insight into the condition of the dead. “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Psalm 146:4) There is no such thing as a “soul” that survives death. The punishment for sin is death, not everlasting torment in a burning hell. Further, death does not lead to eternal bliss in the heavens.a
8 Just as a cake pan with a dent in it can produce only a cake with a mark or impression, the now-imperfect man and woman could produce only imperfect offspring. The Bible explains this process: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) Thus, we are all born in sin, subjected to futility. Life for Adam’s descendants became frustrating drudgery. But is there a way out?
a You will find interesting details about the condition of the dead in the brochure What Happens to Us When We Die?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.