After the Fall had occurred and the verdict of death announced against Adam and Eve, we are told that God drove them away from the tree of life and out of the Garden of Eden. He then placed a guard at the Garden.
So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).
Adam and Eve were banished from Eden as punishment for their sin. Why were they driven out? Why did God place the guard at the Garden of Eden to keep Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of life? Who were the cherubim placed to keep them from reentering Eden? Why were they kept away? There are several possible answers.
The banishment from the Garden was an act of God's mercy. Eating from the tree would not have reversed the effects of their sin. It would not have solved their problem, it would have sealed their fate. For some unexplained reason, eating of the tree of life would have doomed them to an eternal state of sin. Therefore, God in His mercy kept them out of the Garden once they were banished.
Some commentators believe that the tree would also have had symbolic value to Adam and Eve. The tree would have symbolized the life they would have had if they had remained obedient. By God preventing them from eating from the tree, this would symbolize death, disobedience and the impossibility of returning to paradise.
In addition, continued eating of the tree could have given Adam and Eve false notions. They may have believed they could perpetuate their physical life or, in some way, contribute to their own salvation. Since this was now impossible, God had to banish them from the presence of the tree.
This is the first biblical mention of the cherubim. The cherubim are spiritual beings whose form is unknown. They symbolize the presence of God. Two cherubim made out of gold were placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant. The cherubim kept the couple from eating from the tree of life after they had sinned. The flaming sword, going in every direction, speaks of the wrath of God that will hit everything in its path. Nothing can escape it.
The guard was placed at the east of the Garden of Eden and humankind was sent away in an easterly direction. This geographical movement of humankind is important in the Book of Genesis. Later in Genesis, we find east referring to the direction of the city of Babylon (11:2) and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (13:11). The return from the east is the return to the Promised Land (14:17-20).
End Of Paradise
This is the last historical mention of the Garden of Eden and the two trees. There is no reason to assume the Garden or the trees still exist. Over time, the Garden would have degenerated and the trees died. There would have been no further need for the cherubim to guard the entrance seeing that the trees no longer existed.
Adam And Christ Compared
Before we leave the account of the Fall, we must note the comparison between Adam and Christ. The main elements in the story of the Fall included a tree, a curse, thorns, sweat and death. It is easy to see the parallel with the life of Christ.
Before His death Jesus sweat great drops of blood in Gethsemane. Once arrested a crown of thorns was put on His head. Christ died upon Calvary's tree becoming a curse for us. He experienced death for our behalf taking upon Himself the penalty of sin that Adam brought into the world. He broke the curse of Adam by dying as the perfect sacrifice.
Scripture says God placed the cherubim to guard the Garden of Eden. This could be for several reasons.
This would remind Adam and Eve of what they had lost. It would also rid them of the notion that the continued eating of the tree would somehow perpetuate their lives or help in their redemption.
It is also possible that the guard could have been placed there to keep humankind from eating of the tree and remaining forever in sin.
Yet God in His mercy began to prepare the way for humankind's return to a perfect world.