the next paradise

Garden of Eden

Recently, my pastor and his family went on vacation, and he asked me and my family to house-sit their residence. It was an interesting experience. His house is much larger, and in a much nicer neighborhood than any I have lived in. When I went on my daily walks, I found myself contemplating the beauty and orderliness and spaciousness of the neighborhood. I was not exactly envious – God has taken care of me and mine; I have never had a reason to complain. But I could not help but be struck by the extravagance of it all.

As I was musing over this one morning on one of my walks, I found myself praying to God. He asked me to take a good look at all this wealth, blessing and provision. Then he asked me to imagine myself (as he often does) a million years into the future. Looking back on those few days in the pastor’s neighborhood helps me to keep things in perspective. It helps me to realize that my entire life is simply a short temporary stay in (as it were) a borrowed house. What my Father has in store for me, when I get where he wants me, will be so magnificent that those few days among the well-off will seem like slumming.

God planted a garden

God had taken the elements of the ground (Hebrew: ‘adamah) and created a man (Hebrew: ‘adam).[1] He picked a spot of ground on the same planet and planted a rich and beautiful garden.[2] The garden was given to Adam for three expressed reasons:

1. enjoyment.

The trees and other contents of the garden of Eden were designed to be “pleasant to the sight.”[3] Long before scientists would invent the word ecosystem God had created one, and Adam had the pleasure of watching it work. The interplay between flora and fauna was – no doubt – amazing.

Even now, after thousands of years of corruption and dysfunction caused by sin – the planet is a marvel to behold. This planet’s ecosystem combines a varied geography with the peculiarities of myriads of species of plant and animal life, and produces an unsurpassed beauty. But it is more than just beauty. Our planet is a delight to behold because it all fits together in such an orderly system.

The ancients looked at creation and saw evidence for the existence of God because the world is a design that functions well. They reasoned from the design to a designer. They argued that if one found a watch in the sand, he would never imagine that the watch just emerged out of nothingness. Its design was too complicated for that. Just looking at the planet leads people back to its creator.

Eden was like that. Every blade of grass, every tree, every marvelous species of animal life – caused Adam to reflect upon the one who created it all. It was all “pleasant to the sight” and reminded Adam of the one who gave him eyes to see. Rather than distracting Adam, all this stuff enhanced Adam’s relationship with God. That is what the next paradise will be for.

2. life

The trees of the garden were designed to be “good for food.”[4] God had created Adam – not immortal like he was, but mortal: dependent upon the ground from which he was made. The ground would produce plants which would sustain the life of his soul. God had created him from the ground, and then breathed into his body the breath of life. The resulting combination was a living soul.[5] If Adam had not eaten, his body would have starved to death, and returned to the ground from which it had been fashioned. God wanted to preserve the man he created. He gave Adam what he needed to sustain his life.

Paradise was more than just a nice place to look at. It was designed to sustain life. That is also what the new heavens and new earth will do. Death and all associated with it will pass away.[6] Look at our future home and you will see a river of life flowing through it, and a tree of life in the midst of it.[7] Paradise will be eternal life for redeemed humanity.

3. meaning

Adam was placed in Eden “to work it and keep it.” That marvelous ecosystem will require the human touch to ensure that it continues to be all that God intended it to be. Adam enjoyed his work. Each day brought new discoveries. He “gave names to all the livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field.”[8] Every new discovery brought Adam even more appreciation of his God, as he categorized and celebrated the magnificent provision.

That is what the next paradise will be like. We will have an eternity to continue seeing what we have never seen before, and marveling at the elaborate richness of our inheritance.

God performed surgery

Nevertheless, the paradise of Eden was missing something that led God to pronounce it “not good.”[9] Adam needed “a helper fit for him.” Instead of forming this creature out of the ‘adamah as he had done all the others, God decided to perform the first recorded surgery, and fashion her out of ‘adam himself. Have you ever stopped to ask why the creator did so? He was creating a bride for his son, Adam. She would prefigure the bride for his Son, Jesus. She must be “a helper fit for him.” She must fit the criteria for the bride of Christ.

1. She must be IN HIM.

Eve began as part of Adam. She was in Adam. She literally came from him. If there had never been an Adam, there could never have been an Eve. She depended upon him for her life and for her destiny. The LORD God took her from Adam and brought her to Adam. Adam called her “bone of (his) bones and flesh of (his) flesh.”

In the same way, the next paradise (the new heavens and new earth) will be populated only by those who are in Christ. To be in him then, we must be in him now.

2. She must be FIT TO RULE.

Adam was a servant of God, and a ruler for God. He had been created so that he could have dominion over the “fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that was moving on the earth.”[10] God had placed all of his domains under man’s dominion. If Eve was going to be “a helper fit for him” she must be able to rule at his side, to help him rule, to reign with him.

Does not the Scripture say that we, the bride of Christ, will reign with him[11] in his eternal kingdom? The next paradise, the new heavens and new earth will only be populated by kings and queens. We learn to serve under Christ so that we can someday rule with him.

3. He must sleep before SHE CAN LIVE!

The most remarkable picture that this surgery presents us with is a picture of Christ’s sacrificial death. “The LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man.”[12] Sleep in the Bible is a metaphor for death. Adam’s deep sleep was not death, but it was described in terms that prefigured Christ’s sleep in the tomb. Just as Adam had to fall asleep in order for Eve to be created, so Christ had to die on the cross in order to give life to his bride.

It was also essential that Adam wake from his sleep. He had to experience his resurrection so that he and his bride could come together and enjoy paradise together. So, the surgery in Eden prefigured the atonement, and the aftermath of the surgery prefigured the next paradise: the new heavens and the new earth.

Genesis 2 concludes with the record that “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”[13] This would be the last time something like that could be said, for shame and sorrow followed on the heels of sin – which was introduced into humanity’s story in the very next chapter. But the picture of paradise in Genesis 2 rightly ends with both bride and bridegroom enjoying the garden and each other’s company without shame. Humanity’s shame will be replaced with God’s glory. John describes the holy city as shining with the glory of God, the glory of kings, and the glory and the honor of the nations.[14]

I enjoyed my recent stay in the neighborhood where “the other half lives.” It has got me to thinking about my destiny. Do you share that destiny? Are you in Christ? Are you his bride? There will be a paradise tomorrow, but it only awaits those who are in Christ today.

[1] Genesis 2:7.

[2] Genesis 2:8.

[3] Genesis 2:9.

[4] Genesis 2:9.

[5] Genesis 2:7.

[6] Revelation 21:4.

[7] Revelation 22:1-2.

[8] Genesis 2:20.

[9] Genesis 2:18.

[10] Genesis 1:28.

[11] 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:6; 22:5.

[12] Genesis 2:21.

[13] Genesis 2:25.

[14] Revelation 21:22-26.

Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at -- !

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