An outpost of heaven on earth. That’s what Eden was when “the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east” (Genesis 2:8). But God had big plans for this little outpost.
God formed the first man, Adam, and “took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam was to be the gardener in the garden. But he was also to be the guardian of the garden, the ruler over the garden. It was a big task. He needed a helper.
So God created the woman, Eve. They were supposed to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, 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” (Genesis 1:28). Clearly an expansion project was in the works. It was God’s intention that the garden would spread so that the whole earth would become a home, one he would share with his image-bearers.
As Adam and Eve worked and kept the garden, Eden would grow beyond its current boundaries, and the glory of their royal rule would increase. As Adam and Eve were fruitful and multiplied, more offspring in the image of God would come to glorify God by enjoying him forever. As Adam and Eve, who were made in the image of God, obeyed God, they would bear his likeness in an even more glorious way.
But evil slithered into the garden in the form of a serpent, and Adam failed to subdue it. Instead, Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and transferred their loyalty to him and away from the God who made them. Having become unholy people, they could no longer live in this outpost of heaven in the presence of a holy God, so they were sent out into the surrounding wilderness.
Later, God created another outpost of heaven. It was the Most Holy Place in the temple, where he came down to dwell among his people. But only one person, the high priest of Israel, could enter this outpost of heaven, and only once a year. And eventually this holy habitation was also sullied by human sin.
So, God sent his Son. When Jesus began his ministry he announced, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Heaven invaded earth in the person of Jesus, the second Adam. He came to take the sin of an unholy people upon himself and to give to them his own perfect holiness. Why? So that God’s intention for the whole earth to be a home he will share with his image-bearers will become a reality that his people will enjoy forever.
Jesus, the King of heaven, is going to come again to this earth. And when he does, this earth will become heaven. It will not merely be a little outpost of heaven surrounded by wilderness like Eden was. It will be far more expansive. “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). Imagine it this way — everywhere you look, all you will be able to see will be the goodness and glory of God.
When heaven comes to earth, it will be filled with people who bear the glorious image of God. Everyone you meet will be completely joyful, fearlessly authentic, and perfectly loving. And there will be so many interesting people to get to know — a “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9). What a joy it will be to be surrounded by brothers and sisters from every age who will all have stories to tell about how the Father chose them, and the Son rescued them, and the Spirit changed and sustained them.
Eden was sullied when Satan invaded the outpost of heaven in the form of a serpent, bringing his lies and rebellion, destruction, and death along with him. But when heaven comes to earth, “nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false” (Revelation 21:27). There will be nothing to fear, no temptation to overcome, no cause for shame. No more pain. No more death. Perfect and unending security.
We will be “as a bride adorned for her husband,” and will forever be joined to our faithful Bridegroom (Revelation 21:2). Into eternity, as the bride of Christ, we will be fully loved by our holy husband. This, the best of all marriages, will never end.
God will clothe us in white linen that has been washed by the blood of the Lamb. We’ll be dressed in royal robes of righteousness fit for reigning with Christ. The shadow of Sabbath rest, one day in seven, will give way to the substance of an eternal day of enjoyment of all that God has made, all that God has done, and all that God is.
The tree of life that was in the midst of the garden of Eden will be there, but it will have expanded to every side of the river. Instead of producing one kind of fruit, it will produce twelve kinds of fruit. And instead of one crop of fruit a year, it will produce a new crop of fruit every month.
The abundance and satisfaction of the new heaven and new earth will far exceed what Adam and Eve experienced in Eden. The nagging sense of discontent inherent to life in the wilderness of this world will be gone for good as the fruit of this tree will satisfy us fully and forever.
And it’s not just that the fruit of this tree will feed us. The leaves of this tree will heal us. In fact, the leaves of this tree will heal everything. All the scars left by sin will be healed. All the wounds inflicted by harsh words, the infection of cynical attitudes, the disfigurement of racism — it will all be healed. All the emotional scars left by abuse, the relational tearing apart caused by divorce, the societal discord caused by pride, the governmental corruption caused by greed — it will all be healed.
Many people speak of what God is preparing for his people as a restoration of Eden. But, my friends, it’s far better than that. The home God intends to share with his people for all eternity will be far more secure, far more satisfying, far more glorious than the original Eden. One day his kingdom will come and his will done on earth as it is in heaven. It’s going to be everything we have always longed for. It’s going to be even better than Eden.
Nancy Guthrie is the author of Even Better Than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story. She and her husband host Respite Retreats for couples who have faced the death of a child. She is also the host of the podcast Help Me Teach the Bible.
A version of this article previously appeared on the Desiring God website under the headline, “The Home of Everything We’ve Always Longed For.”
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