Beautiful Garden — The Paradise of God
Pastor Cornelius R. Stam
“And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed” (Gen. 2:8).
The Greek name for the Garden of Eden is Paradise (Gr. paradeisos, “beautiful garden”). While this garden is not discussed in the New Testament, it is surely alluded to several times. In any case, we may be sure that if God planted the garden in Eden it was indeed a “Paradise,” a beautiful garden.
Let us not blame God for the hideous scars this earth now bears. Blame man and his pride and greed. Blame his marching armies, his guns and bombs. Blame his “intellectual achievements,” his ability to pollute its surface and its atmosphere with toxic fumes and wastes, and with deafening noises—all in the name of progress. Blame his irresponsibility in cluttering its habitable surface with debris.
God did not place man in such an atmosphere. Rather, “the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.” How breathtakingly beautiful, how ineffably delightful these surroundings must have been! Adam and Eve, in Eden, must have enjoyed each other’s company here as no other wedded couple since, with only the light and pleasant responsibility to “dress” and “keep” the garden1 (Gen. 2:15), and with the special blessing of open fellowship with God, perhaps especially “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 2:19,22,23; 3:8).
But when man fell, all creation fell with him. Man now had a fallen, sinful nature. The animal creation suddenly became wild and vicious, and as to the vegetable creation, God said to Adam: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and…in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…” (Gen. 3:17-19). And to the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children…” (3:16). And even this manner of living was to be cut short at last by death and a “return unto the ground; for out of it,” said God, “wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (3:19). Indeed, lest man should now eat of the tree of life and live forever, God “sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till2 the ground from whence he was taken” (Gen. 3:23). Thus it is that we read in Romans 5:12:
“Wherefore…by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all3 men, for that all have sinned.”
Ever since that dreadful day, man’s greatest problem has been his sin. This is what lies at the root of all his trouble and misery, though the subject is not even dealt with in our great works on science. Obvious as is the fact of sin and its results, any consideration of this subject is brushed aside by the intellectuals of this world.
A GARDEN FOR THE REDEEMED
The results of the fall were indeed disastrous, changing man’s habitation from that of a beautiful garden to that of fields and forests that must be cleared and cultivated by laborious effort in the face of relentless opposition from many quarters. For the redeemed who departed this life, however, God again provided a beautiful garden.
In “Old Testament” times the general designation for this place of the departed was sheol (Hebrew), with its Greek equivalent hades, both meaning “the unseen.” However, an examination of Luke 16:19-31 reveals that sheol, or hades, was divided into two areas, separated by “a great gulf” (Ver. 26). The term “Abraham’s bosom” (Ver. 22) describes one aspect of the place where the redeemed went. It was the place where Abraham, the “father of believers,” welcomed all his dear children home, as it were. But another aspect of this wonderful place is described by the name Paradise: Beautiful Garden.
In his youth this writer somehow envisioned hades as a great two-part cavernous region, dimly lit and mysterious. But our Lord’s designation of the blessed area as “Paradise” throws an entirely different light upon it.
How it must have touched the heart of the repentant thief crucified next to our Lord, to be assured by the Savior Himself:
“Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
This assurance must have filled him with comfort and joy despite the pain he suffered. Soon he would be with Christ in a beautiful garden! Gardens are where people go to rest and be refreshed, thus a garden of God’s planting must be infinitely more delightful, and to be in such a garden “with Christ”: what unspeakable joy!
But according to the prophetic Scriptures, the Paradise of Eden will one day be gloriously restored and vastly enlarged. This will take place when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth to reign and Israel is saved and salvation and blessing flow from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Here we could cite literally scores of Old Testament passages in confirmation, but a few will suffice:
“Out of Zion shall go forth the law,4 and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3).
“The Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem” (Isa. 24:23).
“Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him” (Psa. 72:11).
“Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (Zech. 8:22).
Paul confirms this in his epistle to the Romans:
“And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26).
“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers;
“And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written…” (Rom. 15:8,9).
The results of this spiritual transformation will be far-reaching. No longer will man need to till a perverse soil and eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, for the curse will be removed from the vegetable creation:
“The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly…for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isa. 35:1,2,6,7).
The animal creation too will have the curse removed:
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isa. 11:6-9).
And the curse shall be removed from mankind itself:
“The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing” (Isa. 35:5,6).
“There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old;5 but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isa. 65:20).
Other aspects of the fall will also be removed and reversed:
Christ will be known by all: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9).
Government will be purified: “A King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth” (Jer. 23:5).
War and bloodshed will be abolished: “And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).
Israel’s suffering and sorrow will then be over—and that of the other nations as well: “They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa. 35:10 cf. 40:5; 60:3).
These are the conditions that will prevail when our Lord, the rightful King, reigns on earth for 1000 years. This will indeed be Paradise restored, and more.
PARADISE EXALTED or THE HEAVENLY PARADISE
Thus far we have considered Paradise, the Garden of Eden, also the Paradise so graciously prepared for believers of former ages, and Eden’s Paradise gloriously restored and enlarged during the kingdom reign of Christ.
But what about the dispensation under which we now live—a dispensation which has now lasted for almost 2,000 years? With regard to the delay in our Lord’s return to reign and restore this poor stricken world, the Apostle Paul states:
“We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.6
“And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22,23).
Ah, but the apostle also reveals a “mystery,” a secret not made known until the risen, glorified Lord revealed it to him, not all at once, but by installments (See Acts 26:16; II Cor. 12:1).
This revelation concerns the position, blessings and prospect of believers in the present “dispensation of the grace of God.” It must be that God reserved His greatest blessings for those who should trust His Son during the age of His rejection—“this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4), for Paul relates in II Corinthians 12:1-7 how he was “caught up to the third heaven,” and he describes it as “Paradise”: beautiful garden! Think of it! the highest heaven (Gr., epouranios) a beautiful garden. This surely is Paradise exalted! Indeed, the apostle “heard unspeakable words” there, which a man was not permitted to utter. Here he was in the presence of God Himself, seeing and hearing things which we could not even begin to grasp. And so ineffably glorious was this revelation that God sent a “messenger of Satan” to buffet him physically, with “a thorn in the flesh,” lest he should be exalted above measure, and he repeats the reason twice for emphasis (See II Cor. 12:7).
We cannot now grasp the glories which are ours in the heavenlies in Christ, but we can believe God’s Word that this is our position and these are our blessings (Eph. 2:6; 1:3). What is ours by grace we may now appropriate by faith alone, but the time will come when we will enjoy them actually, really. Then we shall see that the ideas we had of God’s presence and surroundings as only blazing, dazzling brilliance, were most inadequate, for Paul was there and, with all its glory, described it as Paradise, a beautiful garden, far more beautiful, surely, than anything we could even begin to imagine.
THE PARADISE OF GOD
We do not have space in this brief article to deal at length with what God has prepared for us in the ages beyond the kingdom reign of Christ, nor why this writer believes that gradually, during the millennium, and finally in full perfection forever, the redeemed nations of the earth and the redeemed in heaven will have full and open fellowship together. Then will be brought to pass the truth of Ephesians 1:10.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.”
Then “the paradise of God” on earth, referred to in Revelation 2:7, will be opened to the paradise in heaven! Who knows what glories lie ahead for the children of God! We can only look forward by faith to learning all about it by personal experience, for surely these are some, only a few, of the things “which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” But at least we know already that it is His gracious purpose:
“That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
- This was before the vegetable creation was cursed.
- Note: not to “dress” the garden, but to “till” the ground.
- All were in Adam and have come from Adam.
- Now obeyed spontaneously, from the heart (Jer. 31:33).
- I.e., One who dies at 100 years of age will be considered a mere child, and will die only as a judgment upon sin, which will not be tolerated at that time.
- I.e., the curse has not yet been removed (because our Lord’s reign has been rejected and awaits a future day).