Adam awakes from a peaceful sleep, but Eve appears to have been restless during the night. She relates to him the disturbing dream she has had. She explains that in the dream she hears a voice and follows it to the Tree of Knowledge. There, a creature who looks like an angel appears, takes a fruit from the forbidden tree and tastes it. The angel tells Eve that she could be like the gods if she eats too, but before she can try it, he vanishes and she returns to dreamless sleep. Adam is troubled by the dream, but assures her that it is not necessarily a prediction of what will happen in the future, because she still has the faculty of reason to control her actions. Comforted, they return to their work and praise of God.
Meanwhile, in Heaven, God calls the Archangel Raphael to his side. He does not want Adam and Eve to claim that the devil took them by surprise if they are lured into disobedience, so he instructs Raphael to tell Adam about the danger in store for him. When Raphael arrives in Paradise, the couple warmly welcomes him. They eat together, and Raphael explains the differences between heavenly food and earthly food. After the meal, Eve leaves the scene and allows Raphael to speak to Adam.
Raphael first describes the composition of the things God created on Earth. God gave different kinds of substance to all living things. The highest substance is spirit, which God put into humankind. Below humans are animals, which have living flesh but no spirit, followed by plants and then inanimate objects. Each group possesses the attributes of the groups below it; for instance, whereas animals have physical senses, humankind possesses all of the same senses plus the ability to reason. Raphael says that man is the highest being on Earth because of his God-given ability to reason, and warns Adam to always choose obedience to God. Adam wonders how any being created by God could choose to be disobedient, but Raphael explains that Adam was created as perfect yet mutable, endowed with the power to maintain his perfection but also the power to lose it. Adam desires to know more, and asks how disobedience first came into Heaven. To answer, Raphael relates the story of Satan’s fall.
When Heaven was still at peace, Raphael explains, all the hierarchies of angels were obedient to God. One day the Father announced to them that he had begotten a son, who was to rule at his right hand. While God’s announcement pleased most of the angels, one of them was angry. That angry angel lost his heavenly name, and is now called Satan. Proud to be one of the highest archangels, Satan felt that he deserved the same powers as God. Jealous of the Son, he persuaded one third of the other angels in Heaven to join him. Satan erected his own throne in heaven, and told his followers that they should not allow themselves to be unjustly ruled. One of these followers, however, disagreed. He was named Abdiel, and after arguing with Satan he faithfully returned to the side of God, braving the scorn of the other rebellious angels.
Eve’s dream, created by Satan’s whispering in her ear as she sleeps, foreshadows her ultimate temptation and downfall. God’s decision to send Raphael to warn Adam about the dangers ahead also foreshadows their fall, although the fact that it does so is paradoxical. After all, the ostensible purpose of sending Raphael is to arm Adam and Eve with knowledge, so that they won’t fall from sheer ignorance. We might expect Raphael’s visit to give Adam and Eve a fighting chance, creating more suspense and doubt as to the outcome, but this is not the case. Every Christian reader already knows that Adam and Eve will fall, so instead of creating suspense, Raphael’s words of instruction only heighten our sense of the gravity of their sin and the tragedy of their disobedience.
There is a further paradox in the fact that even as Milton foreshadows the fall and makes it seem inevitable and predestined, he strives to prove that the fall was anything but inevitable. Paradise Lost insists that Adam and Eve had free will and were protected by adequate knowledge and understanding. In fact, Milton’s poem goes much further in this regard than the Bible, which does not include Raphael’s warning visit or God’s own assurance that Adam and Eve have free will. These parts of the story are Milton’s invention, and his insistence on humankind’s free will flew in the face of what most Puritans believed. Since we know the end of the story from the first line of the poem, this emphasis on free will does not generate an impression of greater possibility, but rather informs our understanding of what Adam and Eve’s sin means.