Eden is often an overlooked study in Scripture. Some may see it as an introductory story to the Bible, but the truth of the matter is that it’s one of the major themes. My view of Eden has drastically changed over the years as I began to understand the proclamation and promise of God in Genesis 3:15. Eden is the Hebrew word עֵדֶן (‘eden) which means “pleasure or delight.”
This Garden of Pleasure was planted eastward in Eden, where God caused every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food to grow (Gen. 2:8-9). The man He created from the dust of the ground was placed in this perfect paradise to maintain order and structure throughout the garden (Gen. 2:15). This article will demonstrate the consistency between the authors of scripture and Christ Himself in dealing with the fall and rise of Eden.
A Picture of Perfection
The Bible says very little about the scenery of Eden outside of a few rivers and trees. The first river was Pishon which flowed throughout the land of Havilah, where the finest gold could be found, along with bdellium and onyx (Gen. 2:11-12). The second river was the Gihon. This river flowed throughout the region of Cush (Gen. 2:13). The third river was the Tigris, which flowed the eastern part of Assyria (Gen. 2:14). The fourth river is the Euphrates (Gen. 2:14) which is one of the most common of the four mentioned throughout the Bible. The most fruitful trees were placed in this garden and man was able to partake of all the trees in this garden, save one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
A View of Eden from the Eyes of the Prophets
The Garden of Eden became a standard throughout the Old Testament as an emblem for prosperity, growth, fulfillment, blessing, and health. Isaiah referred to the restoration of Zion as turning its wilderness into Eden and its desert like the Garden of the Lord, producing comfort, joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and singing (Is. 51:3). Ezekiel referred to the restoration of the house of Israel like the Garden of Eden. He spoke of them being in a place free of sin, fully inhabited, rebuilt, tilled land, and fortified walls (Eze. 36:33-35).
Joel describes the enemies of God coming to destroy Zion. The land before them is likened unto the Garden of Eden in all its beauty and majesty (Joel 2:3). However, due to the unrepentant sin of Zion, it’ll be a wasteland just like a dry desert. This passage is demonstrating the imagery of God’s blessing and creation that was put on display for His glory and His people’s enjoyment, but once again, the sins of mankind destroyed it. Why are the prophets of God using this terminology of comparison to the restoration of Israel? We will revisit this question later in the article.
A View of Eden from the Eyes of Jesus
Even the New Testament writers allude to the Garden of pleasure (Eden). Consider Luke 23, recording the discussion between Jesus and the thief on the cross. After the thief asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom (keep this phrase in mind), Jesus responded, truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.
The word Paradise is the Greek word παράδεισος which means “garden.” This is the same word used in the Greek Septuagint (translation of the Old Testament Hebrew text) for the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3, Isaiah 51, Ezekiel 31, Ezekiel 36, and Joel 2. Let’s examine this passage in Luke 23 a little more in-depth. Here’s a criminal who acknowledged his punishment was true justice. Yet, he feared a greater judgment to come. He asked Jesus to remember him when He entered into His kingdom.
Based on his statement to Jesus, it is reasonable to believe that this man was a Jew and understood the concept of the Kingdom of God. It is also possible he heard the teachings of Jesus on the Kingdom at some point in his life (cf. Mark 1:15). There are other reasons to believe this man was a Jew based on what Jesus told him. This man feared being rejected and cast out of the Kingdom. He acknowledged that Jesus was truly the King of the eternal Kingdom to come. Jesus spoke of Jews who will see many come from the east and west to recline at a table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom, while many Jews would be thrown out and placed into outer darkness (Matt. 8:11-12).
Perhaps, this man was overcome with terror at the thought of this punishment. His Roman crucifixion would be pale in comparison to the thought of not being remembered by name in the Kingdom. After all, Jesus said there would be many who would hear the words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23). This man was evidently a worker of lawlessness. He knew it and acknowledged that his punishment fit his crime. In a way, he was pleading for mercy by asking Jesus to remember him.
What was Jesus’ answer to the plea? He told the man that, truly, he would be with Him in Paradise. Why is this significant? The man was asking Jesus about the Kingdom and Jesus responds with terminology of the Garden of Eden (Paradise)? Jesus was likening His Kingdom unto Eden. These words would have taken this man back to a mindset of Genesis 2, Isaiah 51, and Ezekiel 36. I believe Jesus was taking this dying man’s mind to the greatest comfort one could give, being with the King of the Kingdom in the restored Eden. Jesus was literally saying, “Truly, you will be with me in the restored Garden of Eden.”
A Picture of the New Eden
This demonstrates to us that the beauty of Eden is that God will be with His people in a new and restored state, where the curse would be completely reversed. Think back to what Moses taught concerning Eden. Though Eden was majestic and beautiful in scenery, the greatest beauty was that God was dwelling with man, and mankind was enjoying an ongoing relationship with Him. God would walk in the garden and speak with Adam in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
In the pseudepigraphal (a text whose claimed author is not the true author) book of Jubilees 3:12, the reader is informed that the Garden of Eden was “holier than all the earth besides, and every tree that is planted in it is holy.” This was a place where God and man enjoyed fellowship together in a state of holiness and happiness. Later in Jubilees 8:19, Noah is said to have called the Garden of Eden, “the holy of holies, and the dwelling of the Lord.” The fall destroyed this fellowship and state of existence.
Christ’s restored Kingdom consists of reversing the curse and bringing us back to the state of Eden. To argue this further, let’s examine the consummation of this in the book of Revelation. John tells us in Jesus’ message to the church at Ephesus that those who conquer will be granted the right to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Rev. 2:7). There’s a promise here for those who persevere to the end. They will be eating from the tree of life (think Eden) in the paradise of God (think Eden). Was Jesus being devious here or being serious? Let’s examine the end of the story in Revelation 22.
While describing the beauty of the New Jerusalem, an angel showed John a crystal river flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb. It watered the tree of life (think Eden) with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves from the tree of life will be for the healing of the nations and there will be no more curse. Also, His servants will worship the Lamb in this restored Eden (Rev. 22:1-3). This is the place that Jesus promised to the thief on the cross when He would enter into His Kingdom.
There are four key factors when examining this text. First, the Bible begins in Eden and ends in Eden. The curse that came from the fall (Gen. 3:17-19) has been removed (Rev. 22:3). Second, the tree of life that was cut off from man (Gen. 3:24) is now being eaten from (Rev. 2:7) and used for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2). Third, and most importantly, God and man are reunited in a state of perfection. The Lord will wipe every tear, destroy death, and remove all sorrow and pain (Rev. 21:4). Fourth, believers will reign with God once more. This was God’s original plan, that man would have dominion over His creation (Gen. 2:15). In Revelation 22, we see man ruling with Christ forever (Rev. 22:5).
This was the promise of Ezekiel 36. God said he would begin a new covenant that consisted of giving them a new heart and putting a new spirit within them. He told them he would remove the heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ezek. 36:26-27). He promised to cleanse from all iniquity and cause the city to be inhabited again, and the wasteland rebuilt. The land will be tilled and fruitful, “like the Garden of Eden” (Ezek. 36:33-36). It could be argued that Ezekiel was not speaking of a complete rebuild after the captivity in Babylon. These statements of permanence have yet to occur in the fullest sense. This permanence of these promises are seen to be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21). The evidence of this claim can be seen with the parallel between Ezekiel 36:28 and Revelation 21:3.
Eden was turned to ashes after the fall corrupted God’s creation. Though it was lost for a time, up from the ashes, Christ will resurrect its beauty once more. He has already begun the work of reversing the curse and bringing His children closer to that state day-by-day. Christ began the entrance of His Kingdom to earth at His first coming by making atonement for His people and sending His Spirit into their hearts (as promised in Ezekiel 36), and at His Second coming, He will bring a finality to it all. Jesus even stated when it comes to finding the Kingdom that it’s not something that can be said, “Look here it is!” Jesus said the Kingdom of God is in the midst (inside) of you.
Christ’s Kingdom is an already/not yet Kingdom. It’s here now and Christ is ruling from His throne while reversing the curse of sin in the hearts of His people. However, the consummation of all these things has not taken place yet. The believer’s daily transformation is the process that brings him closer to that final state of Eden. John said it this way in his Epistle, “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8).
The road to Eden has already begun for the believer. Christ’s Kingdom is being lived out in the hearts and lives of His Children. Every day with Jesus is a day closer to Eden. After all, Eden is all about God dwelling with His people in a perfect state of unity and in His perfect creation. We were meant to enjoy God forever. This happiness and enjoyment will be in Eden once more. However, we are experiencing elements of Eden today in our daily walk with the Lord. From the ashes of Eden, Christ will resurrect and redeem it all, for His glory and grace.
-Dr. Stephen Boyce