But is that all? Are we simply saved to go to heaven while the formerly good creation continues to be infested with sin? Do we separate ourselves from everything around us and try to stay in spiritual quarantine?
Hardly! Salvation is just the beginning. Jesus came not only to save us, but to restore all creation to the peaceful way it was in the Garden of Eden! Romans 8:19-21 tells us:
“The creation waits in eager expectation for the son of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
I’m not trying to say that salvation is that bad of a gig, but if that’s all you’re interested in, you’ve missed half the point! Immediately after Jesus comes back to life we find the Garden of Eden being hinted at. In John 20:10-18, three days after Jesus had died, we find his mother, Mary, standing outside his tomb all by herself, weeping. Next two angels appear and talk to her. Mary turns around and bumps into Jesus. Thinking he’s the gardener, she makes conversation with him for a moment, then Jesus reveals who he is and tells her to go tell the others.
Isn’t it strange that Jesus’ own mother mistakes Him for a stranger? Or was it simply Jesus disguising himself somehow? I opt for the latter, I think Jesus wanted her to think he was the gardener. Why?
Because all the Jews of Jesus’ day had memorized the first five books of the Bible (the Septuagint) as thoroughly as most Americans have the Pledge of Allegiance memorized or as well as a lot of Christians have the Lord’s Prayer memorized. So if I mentioned a nation that was indivisible, it might make you think of the Pledge or if I said forgive us our trespasses you might think of the Lord’s Prayer, especially if it were something that we talked about on a daily basis!
So the point is, when the readers of the Gospel of John heard the word garden, it may have made them think of The Garden of Eden. The place where creation was in harmony and everything was the way it should have been. Sadly, man has been banned from the Garden of Eden. But is it possible for us to return all of creation to a place where we’re in Harmony with our Maker?
If you look at Genesis 3:21-24, you’ll find the story of us being banned from the Garden:
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
I think something goes unnoticed in the story of the Garden of Eden. Did you know there were two trees? Yes, two! In Genesis 2:9 it says that there was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but there was also the tree of life! If you look carefully you’ll notice it says in Genesis 2:16, God tells Adam he can eat from ANY tree he wants. So originally we were allowed to eat from the tree of life. I’m not exactly sure what the fruit from the tree of life was, but have you ever had fresh pineapple? Dang!
Next thing we know, in Genesis 3, Satan convinces us that we can’t trust God. Satan tells us we should eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We foolishly believe him and next thing you know we’re being banished from the Garden of Eden.
Something interesting to note is that God says we must not be allowed to reach out and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever. There are other parts where God tells us if we eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil we will “surely die.” Many believe, and I agree, that man was originally supposed to live in the Garden forever and never die. We were made immortal. The way for us to attain this eternal life was to eat from the tree of life like it says in Genesis 3:22.
So back to my original question, could there be a way to restore harmony? Perhaps. If you read Genesis 3:24 very carefully, you’ll notice something interesting about the way it’s phrased. It says that the “way” to the tree of life is banned.
Where else does the Bible refer to the way? Look at John 14:6:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
Jesus is the way.
Jesus is the way to forgiveness of sins.
Jesus is the way to the tree of life.
Jesus is the way to eternal life.
It doesn’t get any simpler than that.