Going Back to Where We Started

I used to be a serious hunter--as much as my schedule would permit. As my life continued, I especially enjoyed deer hunting. The attraction was not in killing something. Had that been the attraction, I would have quit when I was a novice--the deer fooled or detected me far more often than I detected the deer.

The attraction was being in the woods. I loved the quiet. I loved the beauty. I loved seeing creatures that never saw me. Two of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed are sunrise in the woods and sunset in the woods. I love to see God's creation wake up and God's creation go to sleep.

Once I was slipping, scouting, and just generally observing in some woods when I suddenly realized I did not know where I was. With the fear of being lost instantly came everything taking on a strange appearance. The familiar became unfamiliar. Immediately I had no clue about direction.

I was less than 50 yards from being out of the woods--and did not know it! I almost headed in the wrong direction, back deeper into the woods. When I came to a fence and instantly knew where I was, I marveled at how close I was to being out of the woods and how easily I could have gone deeper into the woods wandering aimlessly around. If I had made that mistake, I could have wandered a long, long time.

Getting back to where I started could have been a long, long journey--simply because I did not know where I was or where I was going.

This evening I want to make a simple comparison between the garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21, 22.

I want to make a single point: it has been and is a long journey to get back to our beginning.

I.  I would like to begin by reading Genesis 2:7-9 and then 2:15-17.

Genesis 2:7-9 Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:15-17 Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

  1. Let me call some things to your attention.
    1. God provided the human being he brought into existence with a home and placed him in that home.
      1. In that home there was beauty.
      2. In that home there was security--there was no need for fear.
      3. In that home there was no need--never was there anxiety of starving.
      4. In that home there was responsibility--Adam was cultivate and keep the garden (scripture does not say what was involved in doing that).
      5. There were also prohibitions: there were tragic consequences to eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
    2. In that early existence there was no knowledge of evil.
  2. Having the knowledge of evil was not a good thing.
    1. To understand evil only as it contrasts to good was a destructive understanding.
    2. People did not have to know evil to appreciate God.
    3. The foundation of evil is deception, deception about who you are, deception about what life is about, deception about God.

II. Now read with me as I read Revelation 21:1-5; 21:10-14; 21:22-27; and 22:1-5.

Revelation 21:1-51 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He *said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."

Revelation 21:10-14 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Revelation 21:22-27 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lambís book of life.

Revelation 22:1-5 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

  1. Again, let me call some things to your attention.
    1. Just as the garden of Eden, the new Jerusalem is God presented, not man made.
    2. Just as in the garden of Eden, there is no tabernacle or temple to represent God's presence--God Himself manifest Himself there.
    3. Just as in the garden of Eden, there are no tears, no death, no grief, no pain.
    4. Just as the garden of Eden, the heavenly Jerusalem is beautiful.
    5. Just as the garden of Eden, the heavenly Jerusalem is totally secure--no harm can come there--it is so secure there is never a need to shut the gates.
    6. Its security and protection are built on the efforts of angels, of Israel, and of the apostles.
    7. It is a place of healing, a place of plenty of water and food, a place free from curses.
  2. I also want you to see the contrast between the garden of Eden and the new Jerusalem.
    1. In Eden people did not know how horrible evil was
    2. In the heavenly Jerusalem those people know how horrible evil is.
    3. In Eden people did not know how great and deserving of praise God is.
    4. In heavenly Jerusalem those people know God's greatness and praise worthiness.
    5. In Eden deception began because of poor human choice; in the heavenly Jerusalem, deception is destroyed through the efforts of a tireless, patient God -- God reversed the problem we are responsible for.

III. It will take a long, long time for a patient God to return us to our beginnings.

  1. If I asked each of us to make a list of all the things that would disappear if evil as defined by God disappeared, I suspect we could do it without difficulty.
    1. We could rattle off some things without even thinking.
      1. Divorce.
      2. Abuse.
      3. Every form of crime.
      4. Addictions to drugs and to alcohol.
      5. Pornography and all associated with pornography.
      6. War.
    2. Think with me a minute.
      1. Wonder how many industries would disappear if there was no evil? Would you regard that as good or bad?
      2. Wonder how many jobs would disappear if there was no evil? Would you regard that as good or bad?
      3. Wonder how 'good business' practices would change if there was no evil? Would you regard that as good or bad?
      4. Wonder how entertainment would change if there was no evil? Would you regard that as good or bad?
      5. Wonder how advertisement would change if there was no evil? Would you regard that as good or bad?
      6. Wonder how your daily life would change if there was no evil? Would you regard that as good or bad?
    3. My point: you and I have become so accustomed to living in a world of evil that we cannot imagine living in a world without evil as being a good thing.
      1. We would like for all evil to disappear that troubles our lives or the lives of persons we love.
      2. We are (at best) hesitant for any evil to disappear that would affect our existence in what we perceive as an adverse manner.
    4. So a patient God nudges us in the direction of an existence of no evil, and we often resist Him every step of the way.

IV. Read with me Ephesians 2:1-10.

Ephesians 2:1-10 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Life without evil will be possible only:

1. Because God loved us, not because we humored God.

2. Because God is merciful, not because we are deserving.

3. Because God did for us what we could never do for ourselves in Jesus  Christ.

4. Because God is rich in grace, not because we are rich in goodness.

5. Because of God's accomplishments, not because of our efforts.

Notice we are God's workmanship. Notice we were created in Christ Jesus for good works. Notice those good works were NOT God's afterthought.

The privilege of living in the new Jerusalem will mean we, by God's mercy and grace, have come full circle. With patience, God led us back to a world without evil. The difference: (1) this time we know the horror of evil; (2) this time we understand the praiseworthiness of God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 5 June 2005

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