What did you think of Eden last week? I don’t know about you, but Eden is so much more than I had ever imagined. To use Dr. Richter’s “proverb” for this perfect place God created, we get a sense of what Eden held:
“The people of God, thriving in the place of God, dwelling in the presence of God.”
Before Adam and Eve chose to reject the seventh day, which meant rejecting God as their Sovereign (because they wanted to be able to define what good and bad for themselves), they THRIVED …IN GOD’S PRESENCE. God literally walked through the Garden WITH them.
No unproductive labor. No battle for dominion between man and woman. No birth pains. Everything in creation working in perfect order and harmony…as God always intended.
We closed our session last time with a new reality. Adam and Eve had “fallen” and were cast out of Eden. Their new reality went something like this:
“The people of God have been driven from the place of God and have been separated from the presence of God.”
What God had originally intended was thwarted by the freedom of choice He’d given to humanity.
But God didn’t let it end there. In fact, He began the implementation of His “rescue plan” – He wanted to help humanity (and all of creation) get back to that place of perfect relationship with Him, their Creator.
The rest of our Epic of Eden study will unpack that rescue plan…step by step. This “rescue plan” is what Dr. Richter describes as Redemptive History.
We’ve looked at what the first Adam lost, so let’s take a look at what the second Adam (Jesus) buys back:
1 Corinthians 15:22 (ESV)
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Romans 5:12-15 (MSG)
12-14 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it.
15 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do!
Dr. Richter uses the imagery of “bookends” to help us picture this relationship between Adam and Jesus. “God’s Original Intent” (Eden) is one bookend, and “God’s Final Intent” (Revelation 21:1, “a new heaven and a new earth”) is the other bookend.
So, if Genesis 1-2 is “the beginning,” where God and His creation co-existed in perfection as He intended (His Original Intent), and if Revelation 22 is “the end,” where God and His creation once again are together in harmony and perfection (His Final Intent), THEN Genesis 3 through Revelation 21 is God’s Rescue Plan.
I hope you’re getting the big picture here. On one end of Redemptive History is perfect order, harmony, and life WITH God. Then humanity messes up, everything gets knocked out of that perfect order, and we’re SEPARATED from God. God sets out to right this wrong, and in the end He does. His “Final Intent” is achieved and Eden is restored.
In this chapter on “God’s Final Intent,” Dr. Richter helps paint the picture of what “Eden restored will look like.” To help us get there, she reminded us what things were like in Eden.
Trust me – you will be amazed at all the imagery the Bible contains from beginning to end… so that the complete picture can be seen. I know I am!
If we start with Eden, we’ll discover “Eden icons,” which are then sprinkled as “breadcrumbs” throughout Redemptive History. As we follow these breadcrumbs, we’ll see God’s rescue plan unfold before us.
One “Eden icon” is the cherubim: the Garden that had been defended BY Adam wound-up being defended AGAINST Adam… by cherubim.
- Cherubim are warrior-type angels that “guard” God’s holy places and presence.
- Genesis 3:24 (NIV) – “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east sideof the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
- Cherubim are depicted with the face of a human, body of a lion, wings of an eagle
- In her video lesson, Dr. Richter explained that in the Ancient Near East, each of these animals were rulers of their domains – lions ruled the land, eagles ruled the sky, and the human had mastery of the entire animal kingdom.
- Therefore, Ancient Near East cultures used statues and images with this icon to scare away anyone who dared enter the king’s presence in an unworthy fashion.
- Similarly, in the tabernacle God had Moses build, two cherubim were “positioned above the ark” (Epic of Eden, 124).
- The Ark of the Covenant sat in the Holy of Holies – the place where God’s presence would dwell (ref: Exodus 25:22). More on this in a later discussion.
- By having cherubim frame the seat of the Ark of the Covenant, God effectively pulled an image out of Israel’s regular, Ancient Near East world to communicate the Holy of Holies (as well as the Garden of Eden) as His throne room. He used what they knew to communicate a truth about Himself – that while He “dwelled among them,” no one could enter into His presence in an “unworthy fashion.”
- “Thus, the cherubim of the ark and of Eden are best understood ad Yahweh’s watchers, his sentries, his armed guards” (Epic of Eden, 124).
Rivers and Trees
The Garden had four rivers and a Tree of Life. When Adam and Eve “fell,” they no longer had access to this Tree of Life.
- These four rivers watered the world. We recognize two of the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, from Mesopotamia, the place of Eden.
- In Ezekiel’s vision of heaven (in Ezekiel 47), he sees a “magical” spring bursting up under the throne of God, flowing all the way through the Kidron Valley to the Dead Sea. What starts out as a “trickle,” grows wider and deeper until it becomes a “river of life.” (see p. 126)
- This river transforms the deserts of Judah into a garden.
- And turns the Dead Sea (which can support no marine life) to life-giving fresh water. (Epic of Eden, 126)
- Ezekiel 47:12, “By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing.”
- John’s vision of heaven in Revelation 21-22 describes a new heaven and a new earth, in essence he sees the resurrection of the planet.
- Revelation 22:1-2 — “Then the angel showed me the riverof the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”
- These verses echo similar imagery as Ezekiel’s. In both, the river is a source of life that flows directly from God.
- Therefore, rivers are from God, and they are life-giving.
- The Tree of Life in Eden was accessible by Adam and Eve before the fall, but afterward, God protected its access by the cherubim.
- Consistently in Redemptive History trees, like cherubim and rivers, lead us to heaven…to God’s Final Intent.
- In 1 Kings 6-7, we’re shown in great detail how God’s Temple was built and decorated by King Solomon. As you read, note all the “carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers….”
- “So as in the tabernacle, we encounter cherubim in the temple. But another motif of Eden has been added—trees, flowers, and fruit. Apparently this place in which God and his people cohabitate is destined to turn the heart toward Eden” (126).
Heaven – The New Jerusalem
These breadcrumbs, icons of Eden, lead us through Redemptive History to God’s Final Intent. We’ve already seen this “end point” described as the new heaven and new earth, as seen in Revelation 21:1-5.
In these same verses John also describes a holy city, “new Jerusalem,” as coming down out of heaven from God. Dr. Richter explains that “what John is describing here is what Christians call ‘heaven.’ But unlike the images common to our imaginations – disembodied spirits, clouds and wings, harps and chubby cherubs – the biblical author is describing heaven as a new earth. The garden has been restored…” (127).
This New Jerusalem is what Eden was meant to be!
“In fact, it is Eden – a fruit-filled paradise animated by a cosmic river and graced by the Tree of Life. Here, once again, the unhindered presence of God and the unhindered maturation of a sinless humanity coexist” (128).
Dr. Richter summarizes heaven, God’s Final Intent, in her video lesson as:
- The place where God is – and where God and humanity co-exist.
- The place where the people of God may dwell in the place of God with full access to the presence of God.
- The place where the seventh day is restored.
- The place where the people say once again, “Lord, be the Lord of my life,” be the suzerain of my world.
Page 129 in Epic of Eden is FULL of so much goodness. I’ll try to be choosy in what I quote here…but it’s so hard not to just quote the whole page. J
“And where are the cherubim in the New Jerusalem? As there is no longer any need to defend the throne room of God…we find no cherubim here…. God has taken back the garden, Adam’s children are home, and the seven days of Genesis 1 have been put back in their proper order.”
“God’s original intent is his final intent.” (That just says it, doesn’t it? If you like this, see this one:)
“Eden was the perfect plan, and God has never had any other.”
“His goal was that the people of God might dwell in the place of God, enjoying the presence of God. This is all our heavenly Father has ever wanted for us. And everything that lies between Eden’s gate and the New Jerusalem, the bulk of our Bibles, is in essence a huge rescue plan.”
“Then where is heaven? Heaven is the same place it has always been…where God is.” (I think I heard someone say AMEN!) “More specifically, heaven is the place where the people of God dwell in the place of God with full access to the presence of God.”
“Adam was designed for Eden. And the new heaven and the new earth (which are the new Eden) is where God intends for us to spend eternity.”
You’ve heard mentioned several times this idea of God’s rescue plan. The rest of this study will detail “each of the covenantal administrations of this great rescue plan” (130).
So…that means all that time we spent understanding cultural context, historical truths, and the concept of covenant will not be wasted. Each week we’ll look at these in each stage of the rescue plan.
Do you remember our five people? Do you recall they each represent a covenant God made with His people? What we’ll start to piece together is that each person/covenant is part of a series of steps in this rescue plan. Dots are gonna connect. Lights are gonna go on!
Here’s a sneak peek. This diagram, found on page 133 of Epic of Eden, helps us visualize the “ever-expanding embrace of redemptive history:”
In Eden (Adam), all humanity was in relationship with God.
With the fall, that relationship was broken.
With Noah, “one man and his immediate family reenter God’s plan.”
With Abraham, “an extended family that eventually becomes a tribal confederacy is welcomed home.”
With Moses (and David), “an entire nation experiences the grace of God.”
Then we add to our Redemptive History Jesus, who (through the church) offers every person “the opportunity for relationship with their Creator.”
Have you begun to see how powerful the work of Jesus, in His death and resurrection, is? Dr. Richter says what was done in Eden must be undone in Christ. And like Adam, we are cast out of God’s presence…not only because of Adam’s sin (to choose autonomy) but because of our own guilt…in the way we have made our own individual choices, which also separate us from God.
Jesus is the means for that “undoing,” both Adam’s and ours.
Jesus withstood every temptation Satan threw at Him to “throw off the Father’s authority and use his own authority as He pleased.” In doing this, Jesus proved that “Adam could have succeeded in his charge” (134).
Jesus also chose to go along with God’s plan, which included crucifixion. In doing that, He “bore in his own body the curse of Eden, so that the children of Adam would not have to. And when Jesus rose from the grave, he defeated death; he eradicated the curse of Eden” (134).
What does this mean for you and me?
“In his victory over the grave, this same Jesus suspended the power of death in our lives such that you and I could be given the same opportunity given to Adam and Eve…the chance to choose” (135).
At the moment we choose to say YES to Christ, we are participating in our personal “undoing” of Adam’s choice in our own lives! We have the chance to say YES to God’s sovereignty. All we have to do is say, “Jesus, be Lord of my life!” (see Romans 10:9, and Epic of Eden, 135)
This message of redemption, of salvation, of our ultimate rescue…this is the Bible’s message. And, as I hope you’re beginning to understand, the Bible’s story is OUR story. The fact that God wants to restore His relationship with you and with me and with anyone who would call Him Lord is amazing. It’s the whole point of our being. It’s also God’s plan – It’s always BEEN HIS PLAN!
Praise God, who is unchanging. He is and was and is to come!
Feeling like I am in the Throne Room,