It was beautiful, a great place to live, plenty of food, no killing. There was no death. Nothing bad could happen; evil was just a possibility.
Then the "serpent reared his ugly head" (but looked beautiful). Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit. In that act they were cast out of the beautiful garden: they knew evil. (In the Old Testament to know a woman was a sexual act, usually an illicit one that led to some kind of mischief.)
An angel with a flaming sword was placed at the gate of the garden Gen 3:24.
Outside it was nothing like the garden; the place was covered with thorns and thistles. We had to get our food by "the sweat of our brow" (we had to work!!; we had to work hard!!!). Labor became painful. We had the freedom to kill and eat the animals (but that has led and leads to all kinds of mischief).
When the Son of God came we learned that through his sacrificial death we may be saved. It was said to be the only way (John 14:6). Through the death of Jesus we might be 'saved' and at the end we might go to Heaven.
But others said there was another way: if you learn and live the "wonderful words of life", you have another destiny. When the disciples asked Jesus about the end, he replied
"For where the beginning is, there shall the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand in the beginning, and he shall know the end and shall not taste of death" (verse 18).
If you stand in the beginning: strange phrase! Does that mean to brush by the angel with the flaming sword and regain the garden, where there is no death?
Two theories for mankind's salvation: 1) through the sacrificial death of Our Lord, 2) through the psychic change by which we enter the kingdom of God, which Thomas says is here right now, where there is no death.
These two viewpoints collided and competed in first century Christianity. Some say the Gospel of John was written to put down the theory of Thomas; John wrote that belief is what matters (Pagel's Beyond Belief); Thomas looked to the inner experience.
In the fourth century the "Church Fathers" (called by some of us the servants of Constantine) decided that John was right; Thomas was banned (and passed out of existence for 1900 years).
Two theories of salvation: either or? what about both and?
The Times they are a-Changin'.