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Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Garden of Eden was a type of heaven

I'm going to start today's editorial lesson by making a "flat-out" statement of fact - I don't like problems! And, come to think of it, I don't know anyone that does. In the recently past few days of my life I've had to deal with plumbing problems, vehicle repair problems and minor computer problems. None of these were what you'd call "earth-shattering," but because they deviated from the "nice and smooth- running" manner of living, they became problems. As such, I refer you to the first sentence of this paragraph - I don't like problems!

As sojourners here on earth and trying our best to live a life according to the Gospel of Christ, we recognize that we all have to endure problems that are common to mankind. Oh sure, by truly living a Christian lifestyle we can avoid many of the world's ills (problems), but still some are just unavoidable, aren't they?

We have to deal with untoward (I like that word) things like health issues, with mechanical things breaking or just plain wearing out. I guess that can also apply to our human bodies too, can't it? Generally speaking, everyone is going to have to deal with problems common to just everyday living on earth. But, we still don't like them, do we?

I'm going to tell you now what got me to thinking about this lesson, what inspired me, so to speak. You'll laugh, but it was something that I heard someone say a while back and I thought at the time, that's an interesting thought. The statement, and thus the thought, was that: no where in the Bible does it say what heaven smells like. (I told you that you'd laugh.) But, it got me to thinking about heaven and what we're told about that place so I'm going to talk about it for a moment.

I have to tell you that the picture we are painted by God of what heaven is like is something that truly strengthens me. The idea that someday, based upon the "entry requirements" outlined in the Gospel, I'll be in a place where absolutely no problems exist. At all!

So, what are we looking at when we view this picture of heaven? A good place to start is to recall the "Garden of Eden," the type of "paradise" God "planted" and in which He placed man. The Scriptures also refer to it as the "Garden of God" (Ezek. 28:13 & 31:8-9). We know from previous studies that it was created to be a "paradise" on the earth. A type of "heaven" if you will. It was described as having all the pleasant and fruitful plants and trees. It was what we'd call today "luxuriant" meaning it possessed all the good things of life.

From this picture, I cannot imagine there being a foul odor there and though I may not be able to prove by scripture what it smelled like, I can tell you what it "sounded" like. The prophet Isaiah, in likening the "righteous" (Zion) to the "Garden of Eden," said that they would be "glad and thankful" and hear the "voice of melody" (Isa. 51:1-3). I have no trouble picturing the "Garden of Eden" through my sense of hearing and by it, not hearing any discordant sounds. Just the sounds of peace and tranquillity.

When we understand the "Garden of Eden" as a "type," or symbol, then we're helped to see the picture of the "antitype" - "heaven." So let's look at the picture of this "antitype" this place God calls "heaven" for the rest of our time and space today.

Here's what we need to understand about the descriptors of "heaven" as provided by the Scriptures: they are metaphors, which are words or phrases that allow us to see the concept of something by the use of a literal thing. In other words, God shows us "heaven" by describing it in terms that man understands as being beautiful, or precious, or valuable. Here are some of those metaphors.

In Rev. 21:2 we're told that "heaven" is like "a bride adorned for her husband." We know what weddings are and how brides look on that day. What a picture of beauty and purity is seen in that phrase. Stay in the 21st chapter of Revelation and we'll see some more metaphors about what heavens like. Verse 11 tells us that its "light," its luster, is like a precious "jasper stone, clear as crystal."

We see that it has a "great wall" also made of "jasper" and layered with other precious stones and gems. What's the picture seen by this "great" and beautiful wall? The picture of total safety for those inside of it. Plus, the gates of this wall are as beautiful as the wall itself as verse 21 tells us that they're made of "pearl" and that they open onto a street of "pure gold."

Yes, God paints a picture of heaven using those things that man recognizes as being beautiful and precious. He has to do it this way because that's the only way that we of finite mind can even come close to grasping how wonderful a place heaven will be. I truly believe that man's mind cannot fathom just how wonderful and how much of a paradise "heaven" really is, but the Bible tries to show us in terms and descriptors by which we can relate (somewhat).

Besides being in the presence of God, Jesus and all of those saints that we've read about in the Scriptures, the thing I see as wonderful about heaven is: there will be no problems of any sort there. Won't be any health problems (Tree of Life is there). Won't have this old body anyway. (1Cor. 15:52) In a personal manner, being diabetic and having had open-heart surgery, I won't have to take any more medication nor visit the doctors ever again. That alone is worth a "hallelujah."

Won't have any mechanical problems or the bills we have to pay for having them fixed. Actually, we won't have any bills at all. Won't that be nice. Thinking about the "great wall" surrounding us in "heaven" says that there won't be any evil-doers there. Did you ever think of this when you thought about "heaven" - that here won't be any police force there? No need to worry about enemies. They'll all be occupied with their eternal "living conditions."

The word "eternal" brings me to my final part of our picture of "heaven." There won't be any graveyards there. Won't be any funerals of loved ones to attend. God says that there won't be any reason for crying, for tears, for sorrow due to any situation because all of these things are of the world and it no longer exists to the inhabitants of "heaven." Or, as His Word puts it: "for the former things are passed away." (Rev. 21:4)

Bringing this to a fitting close, included in "the former things" are the PROBLEMS. There will not be anything in "heaven" that remotely resembles a problem. That ought to be enough, in of itself, to inspire everyone to want to be there and thus, make the necessary arrangements to be qualified for admittance.

Ron Covey

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