The Bible is the Story of a Special Place (Message 6 of 6)

There has always been a fascination in human thought for the Garden of Eden. Many archaeologists have tried to pinpoint the exact location of this ancient home of the first man and woman. One, named Dr. Juris Zarins, believes that he knows where the Garden is: under the waters of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East. Others, less scientifically, have asserted the location of the Garden of Eden. The Mormons, for example, believe that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri!

Many of the utopian political philosophies of modern times are nothing more than attempts to return to Eden. The Enlightenment’s philosophical children of socialism, anarchism, communism and libertarianism all can be traced back to this desire to return to a utopian Edenic state. All such attempts have failed and are doomed for failure because of the reality of sin. Just imagine that you could come up with the perfect political system, it would still fail because it would have to be led and populated by sinful human beings.

But one day, God’s redeemed humanity will return to Eden! The Bible is the story of a special place!

This message is the sixth and final message in a series of six that seek to develop this summarizing sentence about the Bible:

The Bible is the story of a God who makes a special promise about a special Person who creates a special people to live in a special place with Him forever.

The focus of this message is on the fifth part of that sentence: “The Bible is the Story of a Special Place.” A place called Eden, a place called Canaan, and a place called Heaven. Let’s read Genesis 2:8-15 for the description of the first place which God created for man to live in fellowship with God.

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (9) And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (10) Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. (11) The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one which skirts the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. (12) And the gold of that land is good. Bdellium and the onyx stone are there. (13) The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one which goes around the whole land of Cush. (14) The name of the third river is Hiddekel; it is the one which goes toward the east of Assyria. The fourth river is the Euphrates. (15) Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

I. The Bible is the Story of a Place Called Eden.
The Garden of Eden was a beautiful place! It is described in our text as having a river which divided into four rivers, a Tree of Life, a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, gold and precious stones. There was no curse on the ground, no thorns nor thistles. There was no sweat from the working of the Garden!

But the best thing about the Garden of Eden was the presence of God! God was there and apparently was accustomed to walking and talking with Adam and Eve in the Garden. We know this from Genesis 3:8 where, after their disobedience, Adam and Eve clearly recognized the sound of God walking in the Garden and they hid from Him. They knew what it sounded like to hear God walking in the Garden. Before sin entered the world, there was intimate fellowship between man and His Creator, face to face!

But sin entered the world and the result was that fellowship with God was broken in Genesis 3:22-24,

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– (23) therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. (24) So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

All of human history from that point to this present day has only known life outside the Garden! That is a fitting description for the current human predicament: “Life Outside the Garden.” This explains the longing of mankind to “return to Eden” which has resulted in the many attempts in human history to find the Garden of Eden either archaeologically or politically.

Outside the Garden, life gets worse and worse. From Cain’s murder of his brother Abel in Genesis 4 to the worldwide Flood of Genesis 6-9 to the confusion of the languages at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

But just when things seem hopeless for humanity outside the Garden, God steps in with a promise of a new place for a new people in Genesis 12:1-7. God promises to make Abram a great nation and to give his descendants a land. The Bible is not only the story of a place called Eden, but it is also the story of a place called Canaan.

II. The Bible is the Story of a Place Called Canaan.
God called Abram out of the Ur of the Chaldees in Genesis 12:1-7. He is promised both a people and a place. At last, God’s people would once again be in God’s designed place for them! A place called Canaan.

But this land is not fully occupied by Abraham or his immediate descendants. Even though they live in the land, it is as visitors, not as permanent citizens. But God promised Abraham in Genesis 15:13-16 that after 400 years of bondage in a foreign land, that his descendants would return and fully possess the land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18).

Just as God promised, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, God raised up a deliverer named Moses to lead His people back to the land of Canaan. This land begins to be spoken of as a land, like the Garden of Eden, full of plenty. It is described as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” In fact, when God calls Moses at the Burning Bush He says in Exodus 3:6-8,

Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God. (7) And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. (8) So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.

After Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, spies were sent into the land of Canaan. They came back with a cluster of grapes that it took two of them to carry on a pole between them and they gave this report,

We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Numbers 13:27

Although the Children of Israel refused to enter at this time because of fear of the inhabitants of the land and failed to possess the land which God promised them, they would eventually enter the land under Joshua who records in Joshua 21:43-45,

So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. (44) The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. (45) Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

There are a few bumps in the road during the period of the Judges and the reign of Saul, but by the time of the reign of King Solomon it could be said as 1 Kings 4:20-21 states,

Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing. (21) So Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

Therefore Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 8:56,

Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses.

But we know the rest of the story. Solomon’s own life is soon plagued by sin as his heart is led astray to worship false gods by his many wives. The kingdom is divided during the reign of his son Rehoboam and the two resulting nations of Israel and Judah continue to spiral downward morally and spiritually. The end result is that the Northern Kingdom of Israel is taken out of the land in 722 B.C. by Assyria and the Southern Kingdom of Judah is taken out of the land in 586 B.C. The reason for God’s judgment upon His people is seen in 2 Kings 17.

This should have been no surprise to the nation of Israel. God had warned in Deuteronomy 28:15ff that if His people were not faithful to the covenant which He had made with them, then He would remove them from the land. Specifically note vv. 63-65,

And it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing; and you shall be plucked from off the land which you go to possess. (64) “Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known–wood and stone. (65) And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul.

So once again we see that disobedience of God results in departure from the land. Just as Adam and Eve’s sin resulted in their being driven from the Garden of Eden, so too the sin of Israel and Judah results in their being driven from the land of Canaan!

But the Old Testament saints realized that the land of Canaan was not the ultimate destination for God’s people. Abraham is described in Hebrews 11:8-10 as waiting “for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Then in vv. 13-16, all the Old Testament saints are described as having the same hope. The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 11:6-9 describes the land for which these Old Testaments saints waited expectantly as one in which “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb” and “The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den” without being hurt. The Old Testament saints were longing for a place that we call Heaven!

III. The Bible is the Story of a Place Called Heaven.
The best definition of heaven is the dwelling place of God. Thus, wherever God is: that is heaven! Contrary to popular opinion, the ultimate goal of redemption is not for us to go and be with God in heaven, but for God to come with Heaven to dwell with us on earth!

God has always desired to dwell with His human creatures. In the Garden of Eden, God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. After sin entered the world, this kind of face to face fellowship with God became impossible. But God still desired to dwell among His people. This is why He instructed the Children of Israel to construct a Tabernacle for Him to manifest Himself in. Because of man’s sin, God’s glory had to be veiled in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle (which was the perfectly cubed innermost room of the Tabernacle). Only one man (the High Priest) could enter into the Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies) and then only once a year with a blood sacrifice on behalf of the sins of the people. But the Tabernacle is an example of God’s gracious desire to dwell among His people.

This desire is again clearly seen in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Where the eternal Son of God is described in John 1:14 as “tabernacling” (the word translated “dwelt” could be used for “pitching one’s tent”) among us. What a gracious act by God. Yet even in Jesus, God’s glory was veiled in human flesh or the sinful human race would have been destroyed by the brightness of His coming (as one day Scripture says an unbelieving world will be).

But the good news is that this God-Man Jesus announced in John 14:2, “I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus went to the cross the next day to prepare a way for a holy God in all of His glory to be able to dwell once again with sinful man. He accomplished this by being banished from His Father’s presence for the first time in all of eternity (“My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me!?!?”). He was separated from the presence of His Father in order that those who believe on Him would never have to be separated from God throughout all of eternity future. As Jesus hung on the cross, the veil in the Temple (which symbolized the fact that sinful man could not live in the presence of holy God) was tore in two from the top to the bottom signifying that Jesus had prepared a place for us in the presence of God!

Now the way has been prepared for God to dwell in the midst of His people again, the way He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden! We’re going back to Eden! Everything that Eden offered, we will have, but only better for there is no possibility of sin that could result in our removal!

Look at Revelation 21 and 22 for a description of where human history is headed. John sees a city descending from God out of heaven! Heaven is coming to earth! The earth will have been made new by this time. All the effects of the curse of sin will have been removed. The way has been prepared for God to again dwell on planet earth the way that He dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. John sees this city descending and guess what: it’s a perfect cube, just like the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and Temple. This indicates that redeemed humanity will live in the Most Holy Place, the dwelling place of God which will encompass the entire earth. Note the description in the beginning verses of Revelation 21 and 22.

Revelation 21:1-4 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Revelation 22:1-5 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. 2 In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. 5 There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.

On that day, man’s greatest longing will be fulfilled. The curse will be reversed. We’re going back to Eden!

Conclusion:

The Bible is the story of a place called Eden, Canaan and Heaven.
The Bible is the story of a God who makes a special promise about a special Person who creates a special people to live in a special place with Him forever.

SOLI DEO GLORIA

2 comments

Join the conversation . . .

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s