SOMEDAY leaving this world behind and again being reunited with our loved ones in Heaven is a hope shared by millions of people. How wonderful the prospect is of being in a place where there is no tears, no pain, no human suffering because “the former things have passed away”!–Rev. 21:4
Likewise, many understand the prospect of someday experiencing “Heaven on Earth” during the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ with “all nations” flowing into the City of God–the New Jerusalem that “comes down from God, out of heaven” (Isa. 2:2-4; Rev. 21:2) as part of the predicted “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). As the old hymn says, “…what a day of rejoicing that will be!” The restored paradise will be free from the effects of sin, suffering, disease and death. Even the animal kingdom is once again restored to its original condition of peace and harmony–Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25; Hos. 2:18
Is the “soon” arrival of “Heaven on Earth” a real possibility, or merely a dream? Is it really the intention of God to intervene once again in the affairs of distressed humanity in order to rescue us from total destruction as some contend? Or, is it possible that we have somehow misunderstood the purpose of redemption and the very nature of the promises of restoration? Could it be that God’s act of intervention has already occurred and that the blessings of the “restored paradise” are available here and now? It behooves every honest Bible student to investigate the answers to these questions and then to take a stand on the side of truth and righteousness.
THE DRAMA OF REDEMPTION
The first chapters of the book of Genesis presents the creation of “the heavens and the earth”–a reference to the material creation of the world (Gen. 1:1ff). In the span of six creative “days” the Grand Creator spoke everything into existence by the power of His Word (Psa. 33:4-9; Heb. 11:3). The phrase “then God said…” is repeated nine times (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 29). Adam and Eve, the first human couple were created on the sixth day, “from the dust of the ground” and then placed into their paradise home–the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:7, 8, 15). The historical pageantry of the Genesis creation account testifies to the loving provision of the God who cared for their every need (Gen. 2:9). Also, inside the Garden existed two actual trees representing two actual destinies–one leading to righteousness and everlasting life, the other leading to sin, everlasting death and destruction (Gen. 2:9, 16, 17). When tempted by Satan, Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator and were expelled from their paradise home, forced to live among the “thorns and thistles” of separation and isolation from the presence of God (Gen. 3:17-24). “Death” for Adam and Eve was immediate, “in the very day” of their transgression, just as God had warned (Gen. 2:17). They were left outside the Garden, banished from the presence of God and the loving fellowship they had previously enjoyed. Paradise was lost.
The images of what had occurred to the first human couple were real, actual and historical in nature, something to which Jesus and other inspired writers refer (Matt. 19:4-6; I Tim. 2:13, 14). The earthly paradise home of Adam and Eve also represented something far more: The place of relationship and intimate daily fellowship with Almighty God. The symbolic nature of what physical life in the Garden of Eden represented must not be confused with the spiritual nature of God’s promise of restoration and redemption. The real issue was a matter of “life” and “death”–fellowship with God or separation from God. The entrance of sin and death into the world set in motion the predestined plan of God to bring about eternal redemption and restoration of the human family back into His life-giving presence (Rom. 5:1-21). Those who would contend that God was caught unawares and that the sending of His only-begotten Son into the world was a contingency plan, “just in case” do not understand the nature of a Sovereign God who knows ”the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10), and Whose actions were predestined and finished ”before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4; Heb. 4:3; I Pet. 1:18-21).
RESTORATION AND RELEASE FROM SIN AND DEATH
Those who look for a physical manifestation of a restored paradise on earth miss the significance of what was lost in the Garden of Eden and what is regained by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. When Adam and Eve exited the Garden of Eden and the experience of all that fellowship with God had to offer them, they were left to survive on their own: “In the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). Physical death was not the penalty for sin, but merely a picture of the harsh reality of what separation from God means. No longer would Adam and Eve have access to the “tree of life” representing their fellowship with God and their need to depend upon Him for their very existence (Gen. 3:22-24). They were left to partake of whatever could be produced in the strength of their own feeble efforts (Gen. 3:17-19). The very “ground” upon which they stood was now “cursed”–marred by the entrance of sin.
The Bible pictures something more important than a mere renovation of planet earth, namely, the renovation of the human heart and the resurrection of the human spirit. The state of the physical environment or the location of a person on planet earth has no effect upon the restoration of fellowship back into the presence of God. Those who insist upon the establishment of a Millennial Kingdom under the Lordship of Jesus Christ miss the fact that 2,000 years ago the arrival of His Kingdom was then “at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 13:11). The arrival of that Kingdom was to occur in the lifetime of ”some” who lived during that first-century ”generation” (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Matt. 23:36; 24:34). The preaching of the apostles during the first-century witnessed the dawn of the “times of the restoration of all things” foretold from the very beginning (Acts 3:18-26) to be consummated with the triumphant return of Jesus Christ in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. (Matt. 24:3, 30, 31). Few people today have understood the significance of the what took place in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy during the first-century and the blessings that would come to those now living under the benefits of the “everlasting” New Covenant (Heb. 13:20). The death of Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, His subsequent resurrection from the dead and return in 70 C.E. were the events that consummated the redemptive plan and purpose of God.
Everything lost “in Adam” has now been regained “in Christ” (Rom. 5:1-21; I Cor. 15:20-22). Believers living today are those who have been “raised up” to sit in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6). Resurrection life is imparted immediately to every child of God who respond in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ (John 11:25, 26; Rom. 6:17). The “paradise” of relationship and everlasting fellowship with God is now a present reality! There is “no more death” for the redeemed child of God. There are “no more tears” of sorrow over past sins that once separated us from God’s presence. There is “no more pain” caused by the efforts of feeble human self-reliance apart from the provision of God. “All things” have become “new” as our spiritual relationship with God is once again restored (Rev. 21:5). The “new heavens and a new earth” represent the administration of God ruling in the hearts and minds of people who now submit to His Lordship (Rev. 21:1-4; II Pet. 3:13). The New Jerusalem represents the state of triumph for the people of God throughout all of the ages. No longer is God separated from us. “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” (Rev. 21:3).
The restored spiritual ”paradise” of God has actually existed for 2,000 years ever since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. The complete removal of the Old Covenant system and the establishment of the New Covenant system opened the door for those willing and obedient to enter into salvation “in Christ” and to once again allow the covenantal blessings of heaven to be poured out upon them. The New Covenant Kingdom believers now experience all that God has promised and now live in the promised spiritual paradise foreshadowed by the physical Garden of Eden. The “peace of God” that looks beyond the challenges that exist in this physical realm is the inheritance of every believer today (Phil. 4:7).
Yes, as incredible as it may seem, God has kept all of His promises and everything that pertains to life and godliness is available for you today. If as was the case with Adam and Eve, salvation and a return to fellowship with God remains a matter of “life” and “death.” For more information about how you can have the abundant life that God has promised (John 10:10), please write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. There is no need to wait on the unrealistic promises of those who would defer the blessings of God to some distant, future, imaginary “age to come” and Millennial Kingdom instead of accepting God’s glorious offer of everlasting life in the New Covenant right now! Will you decide to follow Jesus today?