It was always in God’s original plan to create a perfect universe where He invited man, who was made in His own image, to share in rulership of His great kingdom. In this perfect creation, God planted a garden full of pleasure and enjoyment. It was in the Garden of pleasure (Eden) that God created a kingdom for Him and man to enjoy fellowship and dominion together, forever. He commanded man to subdue the earth, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Gen. 1:28-29).
God’s Original Design for Fellowship
Let’s think about that statement in Genesis 1:28-29 for a moment. We often assume that Adam and Eve were subjected to a small cubicle in the garden and that was the only place they could roam. Though man was called to cultivate the garden, it was clear the garden was not the only place of existence given in the command above. Remember, the garden was placed eastward in Eden. The garden did not make up all of Eden.
I contend that Eden is any place where God and man enjoy fellowship with one another, in God’s beautiful creation. However, I do believe that the garden was the meeting place for God and man. This is hinted at after the fall, when God called out to Adam in the cool of the day, and His sound was heard “walking in the garden…” (Gen. 3:8). This is also revealed in the book of Jubilees 8:19 calling the garden of Eden, “the holy of holies, and the dwelling of the Lord.”
Here are a few questions to consider when examining this thought: First, how could Adam have dominion over the fish of the sea and give them their names if he did not explore the sea? Second, how could he have dominion over every living thing that moves on earth if he did not explore their dwelling places on the earth? It should also be noted that chapter 2 of Genesis points to rivers leading to landmarks known for things such as gold, bdellium, onyx, and other agricultural finds. This leads to a third question, did Adam know of these items while subduing and exploring the earth?
Fourth, when God commanded man to work and keep the garden, did he expect him to do so by getting on his hands and knees, and digging with his fingernails? Would it be safe to assume that God expected man to use his mind, not yet corrupted by sin, to develop tools, knowledge, and other items to accomplish such a task? These are questions I believe we should examine when reading the Genesis 1-2 account.
Fellowship Lost in the Paradise of God
God gave Adam permission to name every beast of the field and bird in the air whatever name he desired (Gen. 2:19). He commanded that Adam enjoy every tree in the garden, save the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). Paradise was in place for God and man to dwell together and enjoy a relationship forever. However, the scene of Genesis 3 did not end with a happily ever after.
Consider the serpent’s tempting offer to Eve. He discredited God’s command as if God were a killjoy who was withholding greater pleasure for her. He told her that her eyes were shut to greater pleasure and life. He told her she would be like God, knowing good and evil. This aspect of the temptation was partially true. Once Adam and Eve ate, their eyes were opened to the knowledge of good and evil, but they did not find the greater pleasure in disobedience. Think about how ironic this was: Satan was offering Eve greater pleasure while she was living in the garden of Pleasure, which was the location and source of all true pleasure.
The rivalry of pleasure became the tragedy of Eden.
The fellowship and beauty of Eden were instantly lost with all of its glory. Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, and issued punishment for their sin (Gen. 3:16-19). Spiritual death became a reality and physical death became an inevitable end. All hope seemed lost in God’s perfect paradise.
The Promise of a Restored Eden
However, the good news was given before the bad news in Genesis 3. Have you ever noticed that God proclaimed victory over sin and death before he issued due justice to Adam and Eve? The first proclamation of judgment and promise were given to the serpent (Gen. 3:14-15). This is the first mention of the gospel, which scholars often refer to as the protoevangelium (see Mark Center’s article for more information).
I love the statement God makes to the serpent, “He shall bruise your head.” Redemption will come through the seed of the woman and He will destroy the enemy. Two things should be noted in the text that could point to areas of emphasis by the author. First, he chose to emphasize redemption before judgment (as stated above). Second, he chose to emphasize the bruising of the serpent’s head before revealing the serpent would bruise the heel of the seed of the woman. This should draw us to the reality that redemption is coming and victory is inevitable.
The Whole of Creation Dreaming of the Eden to Come
The fully restored Eden in the kingdom to come will be an amazing experience, and as the Redeemed of God, we should long for this event each day of our pilgrimage. More of this can be seen in my recent article. Consider the reality that through the atoning work of Jesus (the seed of the woman), believers have been reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18). His atonement not only reconciled believers back to Himself; but also all things, whether on earth or in heaven (Col. 1:20).
We often limit the work of redemption when we place its efficacious work on mankind only. Colossians 1 stated that God was redeeming all things to Himself. This can be seen in the famous passage of John 3:16 as well. Sadly, this aspect of the verse is often overlooked due to theological battles over certain doctrines. It is clear that God loves the world (κόσμος) in the text. However, is the word κόσμος limited to just humans? Also, is humanity all that John had in mind when recording the words of Jesus? I would argue that there was a bigger meaning than just mankind, although mankind would be a part of it.
John 3:19 demonstrates the categories within this process. It states that “light came into the world (κόσμος) and people (ἄνθρωπος) loved darkness…” See how John differentiates the world from the people in the same context? Although people are involved in the κόσμος, the view that John had in mind was bigger than just the people. Love and light came into the world to redeem it, but the people deflected to hatred and darkness instead. God loved the world in order to redeem all of it; just as Paul demonstrated in Colossians 1:20. Paul even told the Romans that the whole of creation is groaning for its redemption (Rom. 8:22).
Enjoying Edenic Moments Today
As our bodies, and all of creation groan for their glorified state, we can experience elements of those promises now. I call these “Edenic moments.” What is an Edenic moment? We know that Eden, the Garden of Pleasure, was a place where God and man were able to enjoy fellowship together, in perfect unity, in God’s beautiful creation. Though the fullness of this will not take place right now, there are elements of that fellowship that can take place now.
An Edenic moment is a state where God and man are enjoying fellowship with one another, and the overflow of that relationship pours into everyone around us, all the while, we are enjoying His beautiful creation with Him. Enjoying things like a nice meal, a good conversation, a good laugh, relationships, family, a beautiful sunset, or anything that is an overflow from our relationship with God. These are God’s gifts to us. Consider these verses:
Ecc 3:12-13: I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
Ecc 9:7-8: Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head.
Ecc 9:9: Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
Jas 1:17: Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
1Ti 6:17: As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
We will enjoy a new and better Eden when Christ completes the process of making all things new in His eternal kingdom. However, He wants us to enjoy moments of that life today! When we walk in the light as He is in the light, we can have fellowship with God once again. This fellowship extends with others, all the while, the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). How is this possible when we will not reach perfection on this side of eternity? The answer can be found in two aspects of 1 John 1. First, by confessing revealed sin as the Spirit brings it to our attention (1 John 1:9). God promises to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Second, the atonement of Christ accomplished a covering, not only for my known sin, but also my unrevealed sin (1 John 1:7).
Consider the phrase in verse 7, “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” When we choose to confess exposed sin, we are in a place that can now enjoy full fellowship with God and others. The bonus is that even the unrevealed elements of sin in my life are atoned for until the Spirit reveals those failures. Keep in mind, there was an atonement for unknown or presumptuous sins in the Law (Lev. 5:17-19). This is a full cleansing which allows for full fellowship. When believers are in this state, they can enjoy Edenic moments with God.
All of a sudden, a nice meal with family has a new meaning. Looking out over a beautiful sunset over the ocean has a whole new picture. Enjoying time with family has a much greater meaning and purpose. Being around the people of God in church brings an entirely new element of worship and service. Obeying God is no longer a burden but a delight; because we know the commandments are there to protect us from robbing true joy, rather than killing our joy. These moments, and others like them, are God’s gift to us (see verses above).
God wants us to enjoy moments of pleasure with Him, not in place of Him.
Pleasure is not evil when it is being fulfilled in the context of walking in the light as God is in the light. Even the concept of the tree of life from the garden of Eden has a symbolic meaning with pleasure. In Proverbs 13:12, when a desire that is motivated by wisdom is fulfilled, it is like eating from the tree of life (see Jon Beazley’s article for more information). These statements should take us back to think of an Edenic state. The writers of scripture “dreamed” of the idea often (Is. 51:3; Joel 2:3; Psalm 1; Prov. 11:30, 15:4; Ezek. 36:33-35; Rev. 2:7; etc..); not only in the future Eden to come, but also elements of Eden now. These are Edenic moments with God.
– Dr. Stephen Boyce