Last night I dreamt that my father told me to read Genesis, chapters 2 & 3. I don’t normally dream such things so on this first afternoon of January 2013 I turned there in my Bible.
The first thing that stuck me was the section where God describes where, exactly, Eden lay. I’m sure I’ve read it a hundred times before–but never really noticed its specific mentions of rivers and natural resources.
A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Gen. 2:10-14)
I found myself browsing through Wikipedia–reading of the hypothesized locations, the meeting points of these rivers. Of course–eight thousand years and a world-wide flood would probably have more than wiped out the remains–maybe even buried or discarded a river or two, but yet two remain (the Euphrates and Tigris) to mark the spot of what once was. Certainly, I have never doubted Eden’s existence. Far too many times has modernity scoffed at the possibility of this or that ancient biblically-referenced city’s existence–only for them to dig a little in the sand and lo-and-behold-there-it-is.
But Eden has always had an other-worldly aura in my head. And perhaps rightly so–a place without sin, without pain in our labors, without separation, when God walked with man in the cool of the day.
It never occurred to me to reminisce on Adam and Eve–walking somewhere in a garden in the Middle East–maybe in Lebanon.
But it was this earth. It was this world that fell–this world that Christ walked on and redeemed. This. Very. Physical. World. Which He has promised to return and to make new.
Sorry, comedians and cartoonists. Heaven ain’t no place in the clouds–no handing out harps to the half-hearted heaven-dwellers.
Heaven is a new earth. A glorious city. A heavenly feast. An earth where babes play with the snakes, the lambs with the lions, and God Himself dwells among us. “He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21: 3b-4)
Tim Keller often talks about how both as humans, and particularly as Christians, we feel alienated from the world around us. We are instinctively aware of the fact that the world is not as it should be–something is wrong. And a lot’s wrong. God made us perfect beings in a perfect world, created to be in perfect fellowship with each other and our Creator. And when we sinned and fell, God made a way to make us whole again–by the death of the Holy Lamb of God. Nor is He content to leave us as we are, nor this World in its fallen state… the creation groans (Romans 8), as we groan, awaiting our promised Redemption–our glorious Hope, everything made new.
So with the start of the new year, as Anne always said–“Fresh with no mistakes”–I find myself dreaming of Eden, yearning for that time when Newness shall be everlasting, this world whole and wonderful, our knowledge and fellowship with God complete and ever growing.