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 (Manna 78: Making Time for God)
Eden in the East
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Eden in the East

K.C. Tsai—Toronto, Canada

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (Gen 2:8)

Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and become four riverheads. (Gen 2:10)

Studying these verses, we can see that God planted Eden in the east. Its position is indicated by two rivers near Mesopotamia: the Hiddekel (Tigris), which flowed east of Assyria, and the Euphrates. Eden became the home of Adam, God's creation, a man without sin who bore the image of God.

Adam was created in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). Yet he was not able to uphold God's command steadfastly. Adam sinned and lost his right to remain in the  garden of Eden (Gen 3:24). Worse, through his action, sin entered the world and death spread to mankind (Rom 5:12).

Adam was driven out of Eden, and God placed cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the entrance to the garden. This was necessary to prevent man from entering and eating the fruit from the tree of life and living forever in a state of sin. However, God does not act without reason. He created Eden for a higher purpose. Although man was cast out of Eden, God has a plan of salvation that provides fallen man a way to become a "new creation" and to regain the image of God. Once restored with God's image, man will be able to find the way to return to the  garden of Eden where he will be able to access the tree of life (Rev 22:14).

God placed cherubim at the east of the  garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). Therefore, if man wants to regain access to the tree of life, in the  garden of Eden, he must enter from the east.

THE IMAGE OF GOD

From the words of Moses (Deut 10:14), we see that the people of God knew from time immemorial that "heaven" and "the highest heavens" belonged to God. Apostle Paul also talked about the "third heaven" and "Paradise" (2 Cor 12:2–4). According to one of Jesus' parables, this is the place where the saints rest—people like Abraham and Lazarus (Lk 16:19–31).

The book of Revelation records the Lord Jesus' instructions to Elder John to write to the seven churches. Those messages revealed that victorious believers will be given the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the middle of God's Paradise (Rev 2:7). This privilege is on account of their endurance and triumph over sin and death. They have resurrected with Christ (Col 3:1) and have put to death their old nature: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, and filthy language. They have become a new person, renewed by the Holy Spirit and the "knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" (Col 3:10).

The  garden of Eden is a symbol of the true church. As part of God's salvation plan, He has chosen people to become His workmanship, created anew through Jesus Christ (Eph 2:10). And through this, God re-opens the sealed entrance to the garden and gives man access to the tree of life.

To be a new creation (Gal 6:15), man must be born again through the power of God. Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (Jn 3:3–5). Apostle Paul speaks of "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Tit 3:5). In summary, we need to be baptized and transformed by the Holy Spirit so that we can conform to the image of God.

IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Words of God

In the garden of Eden, God planted trees, pleasing to the eye and bearing good fruit. In the middle were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:9). With the tree of life in their presence, God allowed Adam and Eve, in their sinless state, to eat of the fruit and be able to live forever. As part of God's broader salvation plan, the privilege of access to this tree is to be given to believers who have kept His commandments and triumphed over sin through Jesus Christ (Rev 22:14).

By placing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Eden, man could glorify God by steadfastly upholding His word in the face of temptations. If man were to disobey—that is, to eat the fruit—his consequence would be certain death. Alas, Adam and Eve were unable to keep this single commandment of God. They sinned and fell short of God's glory (Rom 3:23), failing to fulfill His purpose for creating them (Is 43:7).

Moses once taught the Israelites that man should not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (Deut 8:3). Before Adam sinned, he had been a living being, sustained by keeping the word of God. Today, we too must have God's word and submit to it so that we can see the path of life clearly. God's word is the bread of life; when we eat of it, we shall be a "living being" with spiritual life. Through the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the church offers believers living bread from the Bible, which can sustain their spiritual life, as long as they remember to collect their daily portion as they sojourn in the wilderness—the world.

Spirit of God

Now a river went out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it parted and became four riverheads. The first is Pishon; it is the one which encompasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good. Bdelium and the onyx stone are there.

(Gen 2:10–12)

In the same way that the rivers of Eden watered the garden, so the true church has a river of living water. The Lord Jesus promised those who believe in Him that they shall never thirst again, as this living water will remain with them forever, and their lives will always be full (Jn 4:14). The Bible explains that the living water is the Holy Spirit and those who receive the Spirit will experience a fullness of life. The Lord says, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink" (Jn 7:37). Jesus offers the Holy Spirit to those who thirst. Today, when people come to the true church, they can ask for this living water.

Church of God

In the garden of Eden, there was gold, bdellium, and onyx stone. The same reference is found in the Book of Revelation, where the precious stones are in the holy city, the "new Jerusalem"—the spiritual true church where God dwells forever (Rev 21:11, 21). This holy city is made of pure gold, signifying the holy and glorious true church (Rev 21:18). Her foundation is decorated with twelve kinds of precious stones, signifying the apostles' teachings and the believers' virtues (Rev 21:19–20). Furthermore, the twelve gates of the holy city are twelve pearls, each gate comprising one pearl (Rev 21:21), signifying the complete truth in the true church. It is through the truth of the gospel that a person can come to know Jesus and His salvation, and to understand that He is the only way to the Father (Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12).

"MY FATHER HAS BEEN WORKING UNTIL NOW"

But Jesus answered them, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." (Jn 5:17)

This was the Lord Jesus’ reply to the Jews who persecuted Him for healing on the Sabbath. But what did He mean? Had not the heavenly Father already created everything in six days and rested from His work on the seventh? This statement is not referring to God's creation but to the work of salvation. After Adam's downfall, God set about paving the way for "new creations." Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus." Colossians 3:10 says, "[A]nd have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him."

So, when Jesus said, "My Father has been working until now," He was speaking of God's salvation plan—the plan to make "new creations" through the death and redemption work of Jesus on the cross. Through this plan, man can be spiritually renewed: removing his old nature and embracing the new through baptism. He can be filled by the Holy Spirit and live according to the truth. And as a new creation, man regains the image of God (Eph 4:20–24).

Once, when some Jews asked, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (Jn 6:28–29). The work of God is to save sinners and to bring them back to the tree of life, to Paradise, before His presence (Rev 2:7). It entails man responding to God's message of salvation with a heart of belief so that he can be transformed into a new creation with the image of God (2 Cor 5:17).

WHY DID GOD CREATE ALL THINGS?

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.(Col 1:16)

Prior to creation, only God existed. On the last day, after the heavens and the earth pass away, those who have triumphed over sin and death will also be present, together with the angels (1 Thess 4:16–17). In God's eyes, the period from creation to the end of time is but a moment in eternity. However, this “moment” offers us an insight into God's purpose for man. God created man so that man could give Him glory (Isa 43:7).

Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west; I will say to the north, "Give them up!" and to the south, "Do not keep them back!" Bring my sons from afar, and My daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.

(Isa 43:5–7)

Here, Isaiah prophesies concerning the last days. God will gather the saved—those who are called by His name—from every nation, tribe, and tongue. These are those who fulfill the purpose of their existence—to glorify God.

Adam would have glorified God had he kept God's commandment not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Created in God's image in righteousness and holiness, Adam ought to have held firm to God's word, kept his heart pure, and overcome temptation. However, he broke God's command and fell short of His glory (Rom 3:23). As a result, he faced condemnation (Rom 5:12–14).

WHY DID GOD CREATE ADAM, KNOWING HE WOULD SIN?

Even though Adam failed, there were numerous others who would be able to glorify God after him. They would include Old Testament saints like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, who served God in the face of challenges, and New Testament disciples like Peter, John, Stephen, and Paul, who courageously faced persecution and kept the faith in Christ. Today, there are many brethren in the church who glorify God, serving silently in spirit and in truth. Therefore, even though Adam sinned, there are others who live to glorify God.

Glorifying God is not merely a matter of proclaiming, “All glory be to God.” It entails persevering in faith, loving God wholeheartedly, and enduring in the face of trials. A good example is Abraham whose faith was tested when God asked him to offer up his only son in his old age. He firmly believed in God's promise that his descendants, as numerous as the stars, would come from Isaac's lineage (Gen 21:12). Knowing that God had the power to raise his son from the dead, Abraham willingly submitted to God. By raising the sacrificial knife, God was greatly glorified. Another example is found in Luke 18:9–14: the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax-collector. Both came before God to offer quite different prayers: one was pompous and self-righteous, the other was penitent. The tax-collector, who could not look up to heaven, beat his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!" In the presence of the holy and righteous God, the tax collector knew his own unworthiness and pleaded for mercy. In doing so, He gave glory to God.

As believers, let us reflect soberly, according to the measure of faith that God has given to us (Rom 12:3). Based on our level of faith, we should strive to glorify God. We need not feel compelled to act beyond our faith, as not all of us can be like Abraham. But at least we can do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Mic 6:8). In this way, we will work out our own salvation (Phil2:12) and ensure that we are worthy to be in the company of those who are present when the Lord Jesus comes again.

Those who can come before the tree of life in the garden are those who enter the new Jerusalem through its gates (Rev 22:14). This city is the true church and its people are the ones who come under the name of God and have been created for His glory.

In the Book of Revelation, John recorded his last vision: "He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new'" (Rev 21:5). The use of the present tense here reveals that God's work is to make all things new. When God made Adam and Eve, they were new creations, but after they sinned, God continued to make new creations, calling those whom He had chosen before the foundation of the world to be in Christ—that is, to be part of His true church (Eph 1:4).

THE GLORY OF GOD IN THE TEMPLE

After Solomon had completed the building of the temple, priests and Levites carried the ark of God from the city of David into the inner sanctuary. When the trumpeters and singers were praising God after offering sacrifices, a cloud, radiating the glorious light of the Lord, filled the temple (2 Chr 5:1–14). The glorious light that filled the temple signifies the indwelling of God; the Spirit of God filled the temple when it was dedicated to Him. God delighted in the offerings made by David and his son. God told Solomon, "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice" (2 Chr 7:12).

However, Israel was split into two kingdoms after Solomon's son, Rehoboam, was crowned as king. People of the northern kingdom, Israel, were prevented from going to Jerusalem and were redirected to worship the two golden calves made by Jeroboam. They also worshipped Baal and other false gods. And in the southern kingdom, the majority of the Judean kings failed to lead the people to steadfastly worship God. Besides offering sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem, they also worshipped Baal and Canaanite gods (Jer 7:8–11). These resulted in the Spirit of God departing from Solomon's temple, the very dwelling place God had chosen to place His name (Deut 12: 5, 13–14; Jer 7:12–15).

THE DEPARTURE OF GOD'S GLORY

In the sixth year of the Babylonian captivity, Prophet Ezekiel saw a vision of God's glory departing from the temple. God's glory departed first from the cherub, pausing at the threshold of the temple (Ezek 9:3; 10:4); withdrawing from the threshold (Ezek 10:18); lingering at the door of the east gate (Ezek 10:19); withdrawing from the city and stopping on the Mount of Olives, on the east of the city (Ezek 11:23); and finally disappearing altogether (Ezek 11:24).

From Ezekiel's vision, we note how God's glory lingered at several points before it vanished. This shows God’s reluctance to leave the temple that stood in the midst of His people. How could He remain in a place that had been defiled? Inside the temple, all kinds of defilements would go on: there were images of abominable creatures worshipped by the Israelites (Ezek 7:20; 8:711), women would weep over the foreign deity, Tammuz, at the door of the north gate (Ezek 8:14), and men would worship the sun with their backs to the temple in the inner court (Ezek 8:16). It was no wonder that God was furious. His glory, His abidance, would surely depart from the temple.

Chapter 2 of the book of Acts records the incident where God poured out His Holy Spirit and established the apostolic church after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. But a century later, the church swayed in the face of persecution and heretical attacks, and relinquished the original and genuine truth. The result was the secularization of the post-apostolic church.

One example was the adoption of Sunday as the day of rest in place of the Sabbath. It was a case of the church changing course, as in Ezekiel's vision, from praying towards the temple of the Lord and keeping His commandments (2 Chr 6:26, 29, 32, 34, 38), to turning their backs on God and honoring the sun.

True to Ezekiel's prophecy, the glory of God departed from the post-apostolic church: He stopped pouring out the Holy Spirit (i.e., the cessation of the early rain period).

THE RETURN OF GOD'S GLORY

And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory.(Ezek 43:2)

From Ezekiel's vision, God's glory will return to the temple from the way of the east. This is consistent with the way to the tree of life, recorded in the book of Genesis.

The Lord God established Eden in the east; an act with spiritual significance. And after having driven Adam and Eve out, God placed cherubim at the east of the  garden of Eden, to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). The way back to the  garden of Eden is also from the east.

The Bible prophesies that God would accomplish His salvation grace from the east, raising up the true church of the last days. At "an acceptable time," and “in the day of salvation" (Is 49:8; 2 Cor 6:2), God would pour out the latter rain—the Holy Spirit—from the east, to establish His spiritual temple.

THE TRUE CHURCH FROM THE EAST

During the twenty-fifth year of the Babylonian captivity, some twenty years after Ezekiel's first vision, God brought Ezekiel to a gate facing the east. There, he witnessed the glory of God entering from the east; he heard God's voice, like the sound of many waters, and saw the earth radiant with God's glory. Then Ezekiel witnessed the glory of the Lord entering the temple through the east-facing gate (Ezek 43:14).

This vision prophesized the downpour of the latter rain, the Holy Spirit, who will come again in the last days from the east, to revive the apostolic church. The prayers of believers, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit, are like the sound of many waters and of thunder, and are filled with cries of "Alleluia!" (Rev 19:5–6).

God will fill the true church of the last days with His glory, starting from the east.

Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; let them come near together for judgment. Who raised one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? Who gave them as the dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow? Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet? Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am the first; and with the last I am He.

(Isa 41:1–4)

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure," calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.

(Isa 46:10–11)

The above passages prophesy that God will raise up a man from the east; make him stand upright; give him all nations and make him ruler over kings. God will call a "bird of prey from the east," or a "man" who will implement God's will from a far off country. From a historical perspective, this "man" or "bird of prey" refers to Cyrus, king of Persia (Isa 45:1,13) who became God's vessel to conquer the nations and fulfill His will to re-build Jerusalem, laying the temple's foundations (Isa 44:28). From a spiritual perspective, the prophecy was not only about Cyrus, but a more significant salvation plan.

God will establish the true church in the end time to fulfill His righteous will, to give "the righteousness of God" to the unworthy from the east. The "bird of prey" or "man" is a prophecy concerning the true church from the east in the last days. It is God's intention to fulfill His salvation plan—a plan determined from the beginning of time.

In the original text, the bird of prey is a ravenous bird, like a fowl or hawk, a bird considered as unclean (Lev 11:1319). The true church from the east would have comprised the "unclean" Gentiles, called by God's righteousness (Rom 3:2126) to be victorious over the world. The church has been commissioned to liberate man from the bondage of sin and to help him to triumph over death through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This has been God's plan from the beginning: "Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am the first; and with the last I am He" (Isa 41:4).

God is the first, and He is with "the last": Eden, in the east.

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Author: K.C. Tsai
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