Saturday, July 22
The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God and his children named Adam and Eve living in a perfect garden where his children have immediate access to the presence of God and can interact with God face to face. The act of rebellion against God caused them to be separated from God. They initiated this process by hiding from God and by their failed attempts to cover over their guilt and shame. The consequence of their rebellion against God was that they were cut off from immediate fellowship with God, they were cut off from the garden which, along with all of the earth and the inhabitants of the earth including animals and humans fell under the curse of death.
Within God’s ruling of the consequences of sin and the resulting curse came a kernel of good news in Genesis 3:15. One would come who was a “seed of the woman” meaning a child, a human child, who would ultimately defeat the serpent, which represents evil. In the process of destroying the evil serpent, that human would also suffer a wound (a bruised heel).
The rest of the Bible is the story of how God’s plan to rescue the earth from the curse and restore and redeem humanity that was cut off from God is fulfilled ultimately by Jesus Christ, the human being, he was a seed of the woman, who was also the perfect and sinless son of God. In going to the cross and dying for the sins of all humanity, and being raised up by God to everlasting life, Jesus defeated the serpent.
Revelation 20-22 provides a vision of the ultimate victory of how this is ultimately realized. The serpent/dragon/devil/satan(adversary) is permitted to influence the world only so long, and then it will finally meet it’s end. Evil will be defeated by Jesus Christ. Christ will return, the dead will be raised, there will be a final judgment based upon what we have done. Some will be resurrected to everlasting life with God on a renewed earth in the city of New Jerusalem. Some will be judged and condemned by God and cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the second death. (Note that it does not teach that they will be tortured for eternity, but that they will die a second and final time in a type of mass cremation). Death has to be destroyed. Those who reject God’s love and gracious gift of salvation will not have it forced upon. God allows us the freedom to accept his love and the offer of salvation, but he also gives us the freedom to reject it. Just as a bride must consent to marrying the groom in order for a marriage to be valid, we, God’s people must consent to God’s love before our covenant relationship will be valid.
For those who reject God’s love, they will finally and mercifully be brought to everlasting destruction. Those who accept God’s love through Christ, will be granted everlasting life. The Bible ends with the reversals of Genesis 2-3. God will again make his presence here upon the earth. The image John gives in Revelation is of a New Jerusalem coming down from God to take up occupancy on the earth. This new Jerusalem, interesting, is built on the same scale as the Temple in Jerusalem was… only so much larger. The new temple occupies a territory that rivals the ancient Roman empire.
For Christians living in the first century suffering under Roman oppression, this must have given them hope. Rome/ or Babylon or whatever earthly power that was anti-God would be brought to an end, and God’s Kingdom, God’s government would cover all the earth, with Jerusalem acting as a giant temple where God and his people would dwell for all eternity. Within the temple, emanating from the throne of God is a river of life surrounded by the tree of life. The tree of life was the very reason why Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, so that they would not partake of the tree of life/immortality in their sinful and broken condition. Sin had to be defeated once and for all before immortality could be enjoyed. But now, in Revelation, we are free to partake of the tree of life, we are free to embrace immortality, and we will live forever with God in His Kingdom on this renewed earth. We have, in a sense, come full circle, we are back home with God’s presence in the new Eden, and we are forever blessed. Even those who have suffered martyrdom for their faith, will enjoy the benefits and blessings of the New Jerusalem the New Eden and the New Earth.
If you’ve never said yes to God’s love, I don’t want you to miss out on this greatest of all blessings. Say yes to God, you can do it right now. And then solidify that “Yes” by entering into a covenant relationship with God through Baptism. And then live as a child of God and share this good news with as many as you can, until the day all is fulfilled and Christ returns, or the day that you draw your last breath.