Garden to Garden: Eden to Heaven
Topic: Biblical Verse: Genesis 3:22–3:24, Revelation 22:1–22:5
Lenten Midweek 1
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
Genesis 3:22–24; Revelation 22:1–5
“Return from Exile – Garden to Garden: Eden to Heaven”
And behold, it was good. And then we messed it up.
When God created the world, everything was perfect: perfect environment, perfect weather, perfect plants, perfect wildlife on the ground, in the water, in the air. Adam and Eve lived in the presence of God in the perfection of the Garden of Eden as caretakers in paradise. They didn’t need to worry about danger or famine or disease. In Eden, everything was in harmony. Everything was as it should be.
But it’s not so bad now, right? People have enough to eat – if you have a steady income and live in a place where you don’t have to struggle to get food. People live healthy lives – if you’ve got access to good medical care and resources like clean water, and don’t have to contend with chronic illnesses and diseases or injuries. People are safe from danger… no, that’s not right at all, is it? Everything is not as it should be.
We’ve lost the garden. We’ve lost paradise. The word “Paradise” derives from an Iranian word that the Greeks modified into paradeisos, meaning “enclosed park.” Adam and Eve listened to the serpent. They doubted God and His love for them, believing instead that He was keeping something from them. They ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil – and tasted death as a result. God exiled them from the garden, the place of perfection, the place of His presence.
God didn’t exile Adam and Eve to be cruel to them; He did so out of love. He set the cherubim and the flaming sword to separate them from the tree of life. Can you imagine what it would be like to live forever in our world, wrecked with sin? What would it be like if you kept on going while your body suffered injury and illness and the dangers of a broken creation? There’s a fate worse than death. And so, we who were brought forth from dust and ashes return, dust to dust. Everything is not as it should be.
We’re in exile. We aren’t worthy to enter into the presence of God, much less to see His face. We need rescue from this imperfect, fallen world and from our imperfect, fallen lives. And that’s what God promises.
God exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, but He did not forget them or abandon them. He promised a Messiah, a Redeemer, who would come to overcome the serpent, sin, and death. God kept His promise. He kept it by becoming one of us, a child of Eve, the new Adam. He would stand in for us and carry our sin to the cross. He would die our death. This Messiah, Jesus, would accomplish that which you and I never could: he’d bring us back, return us from our exile so that we might once again know the joy of the garden and life in God’s presence.
In Jesus, you have access to what humanity lost. The gates of the garden are open for you because the Redeemer has bought you back and washed you clean with his blood. In Jesus, the Lamb of God, you get to look ahead to a garden far greater than Eden. It’s paradise, the place of perfection, because it is the place of God’s presence.
We hear the city of God described in Revelation 22 using words and phrases that evoke the scene of an extraordinary garden. The river of the water of life flows forth from God’s throne, from the Lamb, right down the middle of the grand avenue. Fed by the river, the tree of life flourishes, no longer locked behind the angelic guards and flaming sword but freely giving its fruit year-round for all the people of the city. Death will be destroyed, and the nations will know ultimate healing. The curse of sin will be gone, and God’s people will know the joy of restored life with God. With His throne at its center, the entire city becomes a temple: the garden, the paradise, where humanity will once again experience the relationship with God that we had known at our beginning. Everything will be as it should be.
In this time in between, look to the gardens. Remember that God has kept His promise to send a Messiah who opens the gates to those who have been in exile. Remember that you have a Savior, who accomplished his goal to bring you back to God. Remember that Jesus took your place so that you and all people would have a home in the new heavens and earth, no longer cast out but welcomed in his name. The garden awaits.