Eden and the Overthrow of Evil

Yes, we live in the wreckage of the first Eden; and yes, the New Eden (the renewed earth when Jesus returns) will be grand, with so many stories and wonderful things to do. But sandwiched between those two things is a question we might ask: what about all the terrible things that have happened in this world, the evil that Satan has caused, the justice that is needed, how does that all get reconciled?

We long for justice in this life, don’t we? There are the examples of extreme evil, like what Adolph Hitler caused during the 1930’s and 1940’s with the concentration camps and brutal killing and experimentation done on innocent people.  Throughout history there have been many versions of this.  But most of the evil we experience takes place at a lower vibe.  You feel it, and I feel it.  The hurt of divorce, when two people who once “thought” they loved each other now seem like enemies bent on doing damage.  The loss of a job through no real fault of your own, and scrambling to make ends meet and support your family.  The pain of sickness and disease that cause a loved one to be debilitated and makes it hard for you to focus on the good things in life.  The accidents, the carnage of war, the gossip and back biting – too often within the church; then there’s government leaders who take advantage of their position and benefit themselves while putting their thumb on people.  Corporate leaders who allow greed to make unethical practices the norm.  It goes on and on.  It all started with Satan back in the original Eden, and he continues to play his part, but we all contribute in some way, big or small.  We may not be Hitler, but we sin, and we add to this compounding effect of a world gone mad, of a world that is held together only by God’s grace as he patiently waits for as many as possible to repent.

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“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling for demons, and a haunt for every unclean spirit… All the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.”  (Revelation 18:1-3)

We’ve all seen the drunkenness of this maddening wine, haven’t we? Truth is, we’ve taken a few sips.  But our sin may be small compared to much that goes on.  Jeremiah speaks of the “high places” that were built to sacrifice sons and daughters (Jer. 32:25).  Horrible.  Yet we still see such, instead of “high places” it’s the mother’s womb.

Yes, evil must be overcome, and we won’t see that in this life, not fully at least. Oh, for a savior, for a pathway to pure relationship with God, oh for all the wrongs to be righted.  We have found that in Jesus, haven’t we?  God laid our sins upon him and we can be forgiven, we can have a way to be cleansed.  But that is only for the “few” who accept Jesus as Lord.  What about those who spit in his face, who want nothing to do with him, who revel in their sins and add fuel to the fire of this wreckage?  Or, what about those who have been persecuted for their faith, many dying; who have done their best to live a godly life and yet faced repeated heartache?  Justice in all that?

It’s why we need to have a clearer view of what awaits us. Not floating on a cloud and singing songs for eternity (that motivates few), but living on a new earth where sin is gone and Eden is restored, where rewards are given for the good we’ve done as we’ve followed Jesus as Lord.  Satan and those who align themselves with him will be tossed into the lake of fire, justice will be meted out, and we will have an eternity to gain understanding and enjoy life the way it was meant to be, the way you’ve always wanted it to be!  Where have you wanted to go, what have you wanted to do, what dreams have gone unfulfilled?  Don’t worry, my friend, all of that will be realized.

“I Can Only Imagine” was a popular song a few years back, I liked it too. The problem is, if eternity is left to our imagination it can become something very vague and unreal.  What we face in eternity is a new Eden, an earth that is restored to all its grandeur!  Don’t just imagine; it is real, it will be yours, and evil will be overthrown.

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Stories Told in the New Eden

I’ve written about the wreckage we live in, this side of Eden. Sin has messed us up, it has messed up the world; but both you (and I) and the world have hope for renewal.  Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). He was talking to the 12 apostles, but we will experience this renewal of all things too.  Heaven is no vague thing with us floating on a cloud, that’s a secular version, not what the Bible teaches.  Listen, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away…” (Rev. 21:1).  At the end of time, when Christ returns and this world ends as we know it, it won’t go away, it will be renewed!  We will have a New Eden, where we live free from the impact of sin.  Oh, the stories that will be told.  Just imagine…

You’re sitting on the green grass looking out over the beautiful landscape. The sun feels so good, the perfect temperature.  There are ocean waves crashing up against the beach in the distance, creating a soothing sound you love to hear.  And then you see him, walking over the crest of the hill with a crowd.  It’s Moses!  What a striking figure, beard running down his chest.  Everyone settles into place, Moses stands on a rock, and with acoustics that allow all to hear exactly what he says, he starts to talk.  “I can remember the time when we stood in a place much like this.  We could hear the waves crashing against the beach of the Red Sea.  Thousands upon thousands stood behind me, anxious to know what would occur as the Egyptian army raced toward us.  And then, I raised my staff toward heaven…”

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Another time and you are visiting the holy land, walking the terrain, thinking about all that has happened here. As you top the hill and look out over the valley before you, with a small creek running through the valley, you hear voices over in a grove of olive trees.  You walk toward the sound and find a group of people listening to the storyteller.  Intrigued you set down among them, and you hear a strapping young man named David begin.  “Yes, he was a big man.  Stood about 9 feet tall.  About the size of that statue Michelangelo made of me years later.  His armor looked like it weighed more than me, his spear was long enough to pierce three men with a single throw.  I would have been unable to defeat him in a normal battle.  But God was with me, and I had a skill.  I went to the banks of that creek you see down in the valley and picked up five smooth stones, putting them in my pouch.  His forehead would be my target.  I sighed deeply, then I started to run toward him…”

David and Goliath

And as time goes by you encounter Noah, oh what tales he has for you, you listen as Methuselah speaks about all that he saw in his 969 years on earth; you set in wonder as Elijah sets the stage for his battle with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. When he’s done, he says he wants to tell you something else that is unique, and he talks of the whirlwind and chariots of fire that took him into God’s presence without experiencing death.  One day, as you have your morning coffee, you see a couple walk by.  They come to your door and knock.  You recognize them somehow.  They want to tell you about naming all the animals, and the joyous time of the first Eden.  Will there never be an end to the wonder of it all?

Then there’s Jesus!  And, us ordinary folk.  We have stories too.  Won’t it be grand?!

“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22)

Is Baptism Necessary?

I wish this wasn’t an issue. It shouldn’t be for Bible believing people. But when it comes to baptism, the various stances of churches and teachers over the years has made it an issue. So, the question becomes: In the process of understanding who Jesus is, that he died for my sins, rose from the dead, and thus conquered death on my behalf; deciding I will become a disciple of Jesus, must I be baptized?

The best source for resolving that issue is the book of Acts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell us of the life of Jesus, describe his death and resurrection. The letters written by the apostles or their apprentice instruct Christians, admonish, provide encouragement. Only the book of Acts truly focuses on people becoming Christian, then forming churches. What do we find there on baptism? Let’s look.Is Baptism Necessary Pic

Acts 2 – Peter preaches on Pentecost, telling the crowd, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you.”

Acts 8 – We are told the Samaritans believed and they were baptized; then we see that when the Ethiopian Eunuch was told of Jesus he said, “Here is water, what prevents me from being baptized?”

Acts 9 – Saul/Paul is converted, and we see he arose and was baptized. When he retells the story in Acts 22 we find Ananias telling him, “And now why do you delay, rise and be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on the name of the Lord.”

Acts 10 – Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, Peter commands him to be baptized in the name of Jesus. Acts 16 – Lydia is converted, the Lord opened her heart to pay attention we’re told, then she was baptized. Same chapter we find the Jailer believes, and he was baptized. Acts 18 – Crispus, we are told, believed and was baptized.

Acts 19 – disciples of John the Baptist – knew of John’s baptism, but when the need based on the connection to Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection is explained, they are baptized in name of Jesus.

There are a couple of other accounts in Acts of people “believing” with no mention of baptism, but to the Jew of the 1st Century, believing without following through with the necessary action was nonsense. To truly believe, you followed through. We can easily assume they did so.

Join the above examples from Acts with the strait-forward instruction of Jesus and his apostles and it is pretty compelling. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matt. 28:19). The Apostle Paul provides the explanation for what baptism accomplishes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3, 4) We also find that through baptism we are clothed with Christ, hiding our sins while allowing God to see us through the righteousness of Jesus (Galatians 3: 26, 27).

There’s nothing magical about being dunked in water in itself, but when predicated by genuine faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is a step of that faith we must not neglect.

…having been buried with him (Jesus) in baptism in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11,12)