Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Something Better

Benjamin West, The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise
Genesis 3:24 is one of the sadder verses in Scripture. It says this: “So he drove out the man”.

Adam and Eve have sinned. Fellowship with God is now broken — perhaps from Adam’s understanding it is broken irreparably. Did Adam then slink in shame out of the garden? No. Did he run in abject fear? No. 

Adam delighted in the garden; he loved where he was. It’s clear he and Eve did not want to leave even after they had sinned. How is it then that they did leave? God drove them out.

Driven Out

Can you imagine such a thing? Forcibly driven out of the place of fellowship, out of the place of blessing, out of the place of meaningful work, out of the place of variety, out of the place of right relationships into ... well, into what we have now.

What did Adam and Even lose then? For them it was the end of an era. Very shortly after driving them out, God puts an angel with a flaming sword, and it turns every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

Now we opened our consideration of Eden with a quote from the pop song “Stardust” — and Mr. Crosby, Mr. Stills, Mr. Nash or Mr. Young may want to get “back to the garden”. In fact I am quite confident Adam and Eve wanted the same thing. But based on the actions of angels throughout the Bible, I do not recommend they attempt that return if confronted by an angel with a flaming sword. It will not end well.

The End of Eden

There is the suggestion here in our text that being driven from the garden is an absolute and final act: they cannot get back, they will not get back, and it’s obviously the case. So Adam and Eve — and by proxy we too — settle outside the garden in sorrow and regret. Everything has changed and not for the better — as Dylan would later say “everything is broken”. We live in a world that isn’t reflective of God’s character anymore and we live in a world where there seem endless shades of sin, sorrow, pain, regret and human suffering. Right about now, Eden sounds very good by comparison.

So are we going back to the garden? No, we’re not going back. We can’t go back. Eden is over.

Eden and the 144,000

Every now and then I meet people at my door who tell me that God has 144,000 chosen ones that He’s particularly fond of; so fond that He’s already met them all. And they’re not you or me. Those fortunate 144,000 get heaven but everyone else is going to stay here and have an Eden-like state. That’s the best that can be hoped for — or so they say.

Whenever I hear that and I look at my Bible and think to myself, “What a small God you have, and how strange he seems. He’s nothing like the God I read about in these pages ...” It’s almost as if they have horribly paraphrased the words of Christ in John 14:2:
“In my Father’s house are just a few rooms. I go to prepare a place for the elite and the very best, and you probably don’t measure up.”
Maybe you should go read that passage and that promise again. For He doesn’t say any such thing — instead He promises that there are many mansions, many places and ample room in the presence of God for those who are His.

Are we going back to the garden? Is that God’s plan? If man’s destiny is just to go back to an Eden-like state, why didn’t God just scrap the whole deal when Adam and Eve fell and re-start with better material?

Better Than the Garden

I’ll tell you why: Because I think — and I think scripture tells us — that there is something far better than Eden waiting, a far better plan that God has in mind for those who trust Him and love Him. He doesn’t have it in mind to return them to this sort of a place even after it’s been cleaned up and given a fresh coat of paint. Instead, God has it in mind to make all His children just like his only begotten Son, and He has it in mind to call them home as a bride. That’s a far better prospect, isn’t it?

I can read about Eden, and I can imagine some of this, but I look forward to a day when I can echo the words of the Queen of Sheba, and I’ll say, “The half has not been told. I had no idea it could be like this”. The hymnwriter puts it this way: “What can full joy and blessing be / but being where Thou art”.

Are we going back to the garden? I think we’re going to somewhere far, far better than that.

A New Destination

Hebrews 2:10. I am staggered by this verse. I don’t really even know … it’s a silly thing to say I wouldn’t have written it this way. I wouldn’t have dared to write it this way. Speaking of the Lord Jesus and of his Father, it says “For it was fitting for him …”

Fitting for God. It was the right thing. Dare I say it made sense; it was a wise decision.
“It was fitting for him for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
God could say the end result of bringing many sons to glory is worth the Lord Jesus going to the cross.

I wouldn’t dare to write that. But here it is.

Here it is, and the phrase is, “It was fitting”. It was appropriate. It was a good idea. It made sense in the courts of God, and to God’s mind.

We have something far better in store for us.

The Prospect of the Cross

What did the Lord Jesus think about it? The writer of Hebrews can say we ought to fix our eyes on Jesus: “… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

When the Lord Jesus considered the prospect of the cross, he set it over and against the idea of bringing salvation to us, and it says he despised the shame. It was such a small thing in comparison — to despise something is to not even consider it — that it didn’t even enter into his calculations.

There’s something far better than Eden and, dare I say it, worth the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine that. Eden isn’t that.

There’s something far better than Eden that awaits us.

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