Eden to Eden

Scripture: Isaiah 64:4, John 14:1-3, Hebrews 11:16
Is there really a place we may go after death? What does the Bible say about this place called heaven? Jesus promises that He is going to prepare a place for us.We will inherit this beautiful city at the second coming. This talk speaks of what our bodies will be like in heaven and it also describes the city of God.
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Many wise men in the world have been bold enough to predict the annihilation of civilization through atomic war. But even the wisest of the wise cannot see beyond the veil of death to describe the hereafter. The great question in the hearts of men everywhere is concerning life in the eternity of the future. I have not found anyone who is not interested in going to heaven. But most people have only a vague idea about the dwelling place of God. It seems to be some mystical isle of somewhere such as we sing about.

Today we are concerned about two great questions. Is the home of the saved going to be a real, material place? And will it be inhabited by real beings? The answers to these questions can only be found in the great Source Book, the Bible. We could speculate and theorize without ever arriving at the truth, but the Word of God is the one "eye" which can see through the veil of death. It has fallen my lot to conduct many funeral services. I don't like to do it because it breaks me all up. Not long ago it was my duty to stand beside the grave of a dear friend of mine, one whose life has been like a light on a hill. Oh, it made me think of that home of the saved. I want to know what is reserved for those who faithfully follow the Lord and fall asleep in death.

Our first Scripture reference is Isaiah 64:4. "For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him." You will notice since the beginning of the world, "men have not heard ... neither hath the eye seen." The prophet intimates that men once did see, hear and know of these wonderful things God has prepared. In fact, God gave man a plan for the way He wanted the world to be. He wanted the earth to be like Eden, the garden of the Lord. But sin entered and changed things. God had given four wonderful gifts which should have lasted forever. Let us think of those gifts and how they were lost through sin. Man was granted life, a righteous character, a beautiful home, and dominion over the earth. All these blessings were conditioned upon obedience to the simple test of the forbidden tree. They were to last forever if our first parents would only obey the Word of God. That was the way God intended to make the human family eternally happy.

It was a sad day when all those gifts had to be taken away because of sin. Adam and Eve began to die according to the pronouncement of God; their dominion passed for the time into the hands of Satan; the image of righteousness was marred within them and they were driven out of the garden home. The first three chapters of the Bible present the picture of this great loss. The entrance of sin and the story of the fall of man is graphically told in Genesis 1, 2, and 3. But the last three chapters of the Bible picture the exact opposite by telling of the restoration of all things. The exit of sin and Satan; the removal of the curse is depicted in Revelation 20, 21, and 22.

Today we are mainly concerned with the home which is to be restored. Is it possible that even the perfect joy of Eden can become a reality once more? Jesus made a promise in John 14:1-3, "... I go to prepare a place for you." Those are the words of Jesus, and He was talking about something that was real. He called it a place. Now, New York is a place, and the home of God's saints will be just as real as New York. Compare the text in the Gospel of John with Hebrews 11:16. "But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city." Here is the identification of the place which Jesus mentioned. The "mansions" of John 14:2 are to be found in the city of Hebrews 11:16.

Jesus said, "I go to prepare. ..." Where did He go? According to the Bible record He ascended into the sky until the disciples lost sight of Him. God's home then, must be high up in the heavens somewhere above the stars and planets. Paul referred to that place as the, "third heaven" in 2 Corinthians 12:2 and also as "paradise" in verse 4. From this account we must conclude that there are three heavens. If I speak of the third house on a certain street, I most assuredly imply the existence of the first and second. Since a "third heaven" is mentioned, we are more than justified in concluding that there are two others. The Bible is abundantly clear in this matter. The first heaven is the atmospheric heaven in which the birds fly. The second is the stellar heaven in which the sun, moon and stars have their places. High above them in the third heaven is the paradise of God. Can we be sure that paradise is the dwelling place of God? Revelation 2:7 speaks of "the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God," and Revelation 22:1, 2 says the tree of life is beside the river of life which flows out from the throne of God. Thus by comparing Scripture with Scripture we know that paradise is the home of God and His throne.

Now the question: When will the righteous inherit the city? In a previous broadcast we read about the great reunion in the air when Jesus comes. With immortal bodies all the saints of God are caught up to meet Christ when He comes, He takes them to the place He has prepared, that beautiful city located in the third heaven. What a trip it will be to pass up through the great open spaces of the skies on the way to paradise!

But here's something to remember: The Scriptures nowhere tell us that paradise is going to be the permanent home of the righteous. On the contrary, the New Jerusalem is going to come down to this earth just as the prophet saw it in Revelation 21:2, 3. "And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God." You may wonder how that pure and holy city could ever find a place on this sinful earth. Well, God is going to prepare a place for it by purifying the earth with fire. "Looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." 2 Peter 3:12, 13. The very elements are going to melt, and the curse of sin will be gone. God will make a new earth, just like the original home of Adam and Eve. His plan will still be carried out for his children. Even the home will be restored through Christ. Then will the words of Jesus in the beatitudes come to pass. "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." Matthew 5:5.

Now let us consider the nature of those saints who shall inhabit this new earth throughout the ages of eternity. Will they have real bodies, or just be vague, spirit-like forms which flit from cloud to cloud? Friends, the city of God and the new earth will be a real place for real people. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2.

We shall be like Jesus after His resurrection, our bodies will be like His body was at that time. On Sunday evening after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the fearful disciples in the upper room. At first they thought it was a spirit or ghost, but Christ reassured them in these words. "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." Luke 24:39.

The picture of ethereal spirits sitting on clouds and strumming harps forever just doesn't fit in with the Bible record. We shall have bodies in which we will do things in the eternity of the future. For example, read Isaiah 65:21, 22, "And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruits of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands." We shall build and plant and reap, but without the heartbreaking toil of this world. The body will never grow weary, and weeds will not come to ruin the harvest. The fact is that there we can carry out our highest ambitions which were denied in this world for lack of time or ability. Some may want to study music for the first ten thousand years, and others may be interested in the study of nature's secret in the natural sciences. Whatever we do will not become boring, and there will continually arise new thrilling subjects to challenge our immortal minds.

Now we come to the question, Shall we know each other in the hereafter? My friends, we will not simply be animated numbers in heaven, we shall have personalities as well. The Lord of God tells us that we shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They will be recognized and known. Peter even recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Mary knew Jesus in the garden after the resurrection because she recognized His voice. Other disciples later knew Him by the characteristic way He offered thanks at the table. Our personalities are not going to be taken from us. We shall see and understand matters more clearly then than we do now. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12.

Now let's think about the conditions of life in the new earth. Isaiah tells us that the animals will all be tame and docile. Even the lion and lamb shall lie down together, and a little child shall lead them. The city will stand as the capital of all the renovated earth. It will be foursquare, with streets of gold, walls of jasper and gates of solid pearls. What a picture it will present to the redeemed who shall come there to partake of the tree of life! In the midst of the city is the throne of God overshadowed by the rainbow of promise. The broad River of Life flows from the throne and the Tree of Life arches over the river (Revelation 22:1, 2). The city itself lies foursquare, and the measurements are given in Revelation 21:16-18. "And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel. And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass." According to our reckoning of today the distance on each side of the city will be 375 miles. Think of it! It will be large enough to contain all the righteous who have ever lived on the face of the earth.

At first there might be a sense of deep sorrow if loved ones are not found among the redeemed, but "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Revelation 21:4. "... the former troubles are forgotten." Isaiah 65:16. The rapture and bliss of pleasure forevermore will leave the heart in constant anticipation of greater happiness to come. According to 1 Corinthians 2:9, we cannot imagine what it will be like. "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." Our finite feelings and thoughts fall far short of even conceiving the fullness of its glory.

I maintain that if there was such a place in this world where sickness, death or sorrow never came; it would be always crowded. You and I would make reservations years in advance. We may reserve a place in the new earth on one condition. We must get rid of sin. For nothing which defileth shall enter that city (Revelation 21:27). By letting Jesus into our hearts and home we may have a little foretaste of heaven now. An old Scotsman was asked if he expected to go to heaven some day. He answered, "Man, I live there." He had made a little heaven on earth in which to go to heaven in. Let's do the same with our hearts and homes.

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