Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Garden Too Small

I've heard more than once in my lifetime the thought that eternity would be, in effect, a return to Eden--perfection of physical being in a perfect physical world, sans Satan, sin and death. There are a few problems with that idea, however. If Adam fell in Eden, what would keep us from doing the same in heaven? We like to blame our sinfulness on our nature, but Adam did not have that nature and he sinned. I know the Devil was in the mix, but he was only toying with what was there. The Devil only expedited things.

As weird as it might seem, I believe Jesus, like Adam, could have fallen while walking on earth. In emptying himself of his divine prerogatives and stepping into our world as one of us, he identified thoroughly with us (except of course, without innate sinfulness). His victory over sin and death would be illusionary, rather than worthy, if he did not actually have anything at risk and the deck was stacked. He truly was a second Adam, but with a whole lot more knowledge than the first. He very well could have fallen in that limited, fleshly nature. Thank God he did not!

The only effective difference I see between Jesus' experience in the flesh and Adam's before the Fall was the knowledge of what was in man. I know that Christ had divine character which could handle the image of God, but to say their respective success and failure occured merely because Jesus was God and Adam was not comes close to denying Jesus' truly human nature and experience. So Jesus, the Son of Man, understood what the cost of sin was for man through personal experience and observation whereas Adam did not. Jesus did not sin and Adam did. When we are like Jesus, rather than Adam, we will not sin either because we know too.

What then will keep us from sinning in eternity? Puppet strings? No, Jesus did not have them, the Father certainly doesn't, and when we see Jesus in "heaven" we will be like him. What turns us to willing cooperation and agreement with God in heaven is knowing absolutely the futility of going it on our own. Oh, we will have a Christlike affection for our Father, no sinful flesh to battle (although we will have flesh), and no Devil trying to deceive and distort things, but we will not be forced to be godly and walk in God's will. That would run counter to what God ultimately intends for us.

To achieve that our hearts and minds will have to work in tandem with God. They will have to be harmonious, even synchronous with his. All that we think will have to be what he thinks and all that we want will have to be what he wants. We'll have to know even as we are known. We will be one. There is no clue that Adam ever had this possibility in Eden, even if the Devil had not been in the picture (although that tree was there for a reason). So Eden never was our ultimate destination that Adam unfortunately screwed up, and Eden will not be what we regain for eternity. It was far too small a garden anyhow!


Onesimus said...

You wrote: “So Eden never was our ultimate destination that Adam unfortunately screwed up, and Eden will not be what we regain for eternity. It was far too small a garden anyhow!”
Very true. The finite nature of the garden and the earth, combined with God’s command for Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth would eventually cause some serious accommodation problems.
If death had not entered the world through sin, how long would it have been before the earth could not contain an increasing, immortal population?

Contrast this with the new creation. There will be no death – but there people will “neither marry nor be given in marriage” so there will be no increase in population (considering God’s view of sex outside of marriage).

The new creation is God’s ultimate plan (as far as it has been revealed to us) and it will not even compare to anything in this old creation. Unlike Eden there will be no potential for sin, it is a place where only righteousness dwells.

The current creation started with the heavens and the earth and climaxed with the creation of man.
God's new creation started with man and culminates with a new heaven and a new earth.

The first creation started with an environment suitable for man.
The new creation starts by making men suitable for an environment where he will live with God.

Articles on my blog covering a similar topic.
God's Ultimate Plan

God's Glorious Gospel

Cindy said...

Once again, SLW, good insights. I would add that the "Millennium" is a better picture of a return to Eden. It is apparently God's plan to revisit and redeem Eden. He seems to always fix His own works - doesn't remodel those of the Enemy though.

We could spend a lot of time looking at the return to Eden concept that seems to be so prevalent in humanity. Everyone seems to have a version.

BTW, there you go with all that free will stuff :). Apparently even Augustine (I'm no fan) believed that we retain our will in heaven.

SLW said...

You touched upon, what's in my mind, the truly telling blow against Mormonism: eternal marriage. Though the universe seems large enough to accomodate such a scheme, Jesus' words surely won't!

Thanks for the suggested articles, I particularly liked God's Glorious Gospel.

SLW said...

Thanks for the interesting thoughts about the Millenium. There will still be death there, however (although long in coming). I'm not an Old-earther (and not necessarily a YEC, either) so I believe death, as an inevitable conclusion to life, was not in force until after the Fall, and so not part of Eden proper. That puts me in a bit of a pickle explaining dinosaur fossils and the results of radiometric dating, but that's another story. I've always taken the Millenium as a redemption of promises made to Abraham and Israel, but it will, no doubt, be as close as the present cosmos ever gets to Eden. Maranatha!

Is there a work you could recommend that highlights the return to Eden theme? Snippets is all I ever come upon.

Augustine didn't seem to have his boxes quite so ordered as Calvin. ;-)

Cindy said...

I'll check with my history expert on the back to Eden resources. Of course ideas such as Atlantis and Shangri la come to mind. Atlantis is a biggie - look around at art, particularly sculpture.

I agree that death didn't precede sin, and therefore old earth and Bible can't be reconciled.

For those of us who are glorified, the Millennium will be more Edenic, and ultimately heaven with be the complete restoration and fulfillment of God's plan - of course.

The Millennium is an interesting interim plan. I believe that some of its purposes have to do with fulfilling promises made to Abraham and David. It also provides a final testing/chance for mortal mankind to receive or reject the King of Kings who is actually there in their midst. There was the potential for sin/death in Eden as there is in the Millennium which no longer seems to exist in heaven.