Animals in the Garden

In Eden, before the Fall, there was no death (Rem. 5:12). Animals were not "wild," and Adam was able to name (i.e., classify) the animals without fear (Gen. 2:19-20). But man's rebellion resulted in terrible changes throughout the world. The nature of animals was altered, so that they became a threat to the peace and safety of man. The dominion over them that Adam had exercised was lost.

In Christ, however, man's dominion has been restored (Ps. 8:5-8 with Heb. 2:6-9). Thus, when God saved His people, this effect of the Curse began to be reversed. He led them through a dangerous wilderness, protecting them from the snakes and scorpions (Deut. 8:15), and He promised them that their life in the Promised Land would be Eden-like in its freedom from the ravages of wild animals: "I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land" (Lev. 26:6). In fact, this is why God did not allow Israel to exterminate the Canaanites all at once: the heathen served as a buffer between the covenant people and the wild animals (Ex. 23:29-30; Deut. 7:22).

Accordingly, when the prophets foretold the coming salvation in Christ, they described it in the same terms of Edenic blessing: "I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land, so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods" (Ezek. 34:25). "No lion will be there, nor will any vicious beast go up on it; these will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there" (Isa. 35:9). In fact, the Bible goes so far as to say that through the Gospel's permeation of the world the wild nature of the animals will be transformed into its original, Edenic condition:

The wolf will dwell with the lamb,

And the leopard will lie down with the kid,

And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

And a little boy will lead them.

Also the cow and the bear will graze;

Their young will lie down together;

And the lion will eat straw like the ox.

And the nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,

And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den.

They will not hurt or destroy in all My Holy Mountain,

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

As the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:6-9; cf. Isa. 65:25)

On the other hand, God warned, the Curse would reappear if the people turned away from God's law: "I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted" (Lev. 26:22; cf. Num. 21:6; Deut. 28:26; 2 Kings 2:24; 17:25; Ezek. 5:17; 14:15; 32:4; Rev. 6:8). When a culture departs from God, He surrenders its people to the dominion of wild animals, in order to prevent them from having ungodly dominion over the earth. But in a godly culture this threat against life and property will progressively disappear; and, ultimately, when the knowledge of God shall cover the earth, the animals will be tamed, and harnessed again to the service of God's Kingdom.

Finally, in this connection we must consider the dinosaurs, for there is a whole theology built around them in the Bible. While the Bible does speak of land dinosaurs (cf. behemoth in Job 40:15-24, which some mistake for a hippopotamus, but which is actually closer to a brontosaurus), our focus here will be on dragons and sea serpents (cf. Job 7:12; 41:1-34 - the creature mentioned in the latter reference, a huge, fire-breathing dragon called Leviathan, is supposed by some to be a crocodile !). Essentially, as part of God's good creation (Gen. 1:21: sea monsters), there is nothing "evil" about these creatures (Gen. 1:31; Ps. 148:7); but, because of man's rebellion, they are used in Scripture to symbolize rebellious man at the height of his power and glory.

Three kinds of dragons are spoken of in Scripture: Tannin (Dragon; Ps. 91:13), Leviathan (Ps. 104:26), and Rahab (Job in Hebrew, this is a completely different word from the name of the Canaanite harlot who saved the Hebrew spies in Joshua 2). The Bible relates each of these monsters to the Serpent, who stands for the subtle, deceitful enemy of God's people (Gen.3:l-5, 13-15). Thus, to demonstrate the divine victory and dominion over man's rebellion, God turned Moses' rod into a "serpent" (Ex. 4:1-4), and Aaron's rod into a "dragon" (tannin; Ex. 7:8-12). The Dragon/Serpent, therefore, becomes in Scripture a symbol of Satanically inspired, rebellious pagan culture (cf. Jer. 51:34), especially exemplified by Egypt in its war against the covenant people. This is particularly true with regard to the monster Rahab (meaning the proud one), which is often a synonym for Egypt (Ps. 87:4; 89:10; Isa. 30:7). God's covenant-making deliverance of His people in the Exodus is described in terms of both the original creation and God's triumph over the Dragon:

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD;

Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.

Was it not Thou who cut Rahab in pieces,

Who pierced the Dragon?

Was it not Thou who dried up the sea,

The waters of the great deep;

Who made the depths of the sea a pathway

For the redeemed to cross over? (Isa. 51:9-10)

The Bible also speaks of the Exodus as a salvation from Leviathan:

Thou didst divide the sea by Thy strength;

Thou didst break the heads of the Dragons in the waters.

Thou didst crush the heads of Leviathan;

Thou didst give him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. (Ps. 74:13-14)

Thus, in provisional fulfillment of the promise in Eden, the Dragon's head was crushed when God saved His people from Egypt. Of course, the head-wound became healed, and the Dragon (accompanied by the Dragon-State in his image) kept coming back to plague and persecute the seed of the woman (cf. Rev. 12-13). This happens again and again throughout the Old

Testament, which records numerous temporary head-crushings of the Dragon (Jud. 4:21; 5:26-27; 9:50-57; 1 Sam. 5:1-5; 17:49-51; 2 Sam. 18:9; 20:21-22; Ps. 68:21; Hab. 3:13). In terms of the threefold structure of salvation which we saw in an earlier chapter, the definitive conquest of the Dragon took place in the death and resurrection of Christ, when He defeated the powers of darkness, disarmed the demonic forces, cast out the devil, and rendered him powerless (Ps. 110:6; John 12:31-32;Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14; Rev. 12:5-10; 20:1-3). The prophets looked forward to this:

In that Day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing Serpent With His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted Serpent;

And He will kill the Dragon who lives in the sea. (Isa. 27:1)

Progressively the implications of Christ's victory are worked out by His people in time and on earth (John 16:33; 1 John 2:13-14; 4:4; 5:4-5; Rev. 12:11), until the final triumph at the consummation of history, when the Dragon is at last destroyed (Rev. 20:7-10). The special point to be grasped for the present age, however, is that we must expect increasing victories over the Serpent, who has been placed under our feet (Rem. 16:20). As the godly steadily reap the blessings of the restored Eden, Satan's dominion will shrink and wither away. This is symbolized by the fact that when all other creatures are restored to their Edenic nature, the condition of the serpent will be unchanged. God warned the Dragon that he would bite the dust under the heels of the righteous, and this aspect of the Curse will reach its full effect:

"The wolf and the lamb shall graze together,

And the lion shall eat straw like the ox;

And dust shall be the serpent> food.

They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain,"

in the Garden

It goes without saying, of course, that a fundamental aspect of the Garden of Eden is that it was a Garden: every kind of beautiful and fruitbearing tree had been planted there by God (Gen. 2:9). Before the Fall, food was abundant and cheap, and man did not have to spend much time in search of sustenance and refreshment. Instead, his time was spent in scientific, productive, and aesthetic activity (Gen.2:15, 19-20). Most of his labor involved investigating and beautifying his environment. But when he rebelled, this was changed, and the Curse was inflicted upon his labor and his natural surroundings: "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:17-19). God imposed the Curse of scarcity, and the major part of human labor became a search for food.

But in salvation God restores His people to Eden, and food becomes cheaper and easier to obtain. In turn, more time can be spent in other activities: the growth of culture is possible only when food is relatively abundant. God gives His people food in order to give them dominion. The Biblical history of salvation demonstrates this again and again. In places too numerous to list here completely, godly men are mentioned as living near trees (see Gen. 18:4,8; 30:37; Jud. 3:13;4:5; 1 Kings 19:5; John 1:48; and, in a modern translation, see Gen. 12:6; 13:18; 14:13; Jud. 4:11). In none of these references is the mention of the trees absolutely essential to the story itself; in a sense, we might think such a detail could have been left out. But God wants us to get the picture in our minds of His people living in the midst of abundance, surrounded by the blessings of the Garden as they are restored in salvation. When Israel is blessed, we find every man sitting under his own vine and fig tree (1 Kings 4:25), and the same is prophesied of all men who live under the blessings of the Christ, when all nations shall flow to the Mountain of the Lord (Mic. 4:1-4; Zech. 3:10).

For this reason the Edenic imagery of trees, planting and fruit is used throughout Scripture to describe God's work of salvation. In singing about God's deliverance of His people into the new Eden, Moses said: "Thou wilt bring them and plant them in the mountain of Thine inheritance" (Ex. 15:17). The godly man is "like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers" (Ps. 1:3; cf. Jer. 17:7-8). The covenant people are "like gardens beside the river, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters" (Num.

"Israel will blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isa. 27:6).

The lampstand in the Tabernacle was a reminder of Eden: it was actually a stylized tree, decked with artificial bulbs and flowers, all made of pure gold (Ex. 37:17-24). The Temple also was richly furnished with Edenic-restoration symbolism: the cedar walls displayed carvings of gourds, flowers, palm trees and cherubim, overlaid with gold (1 Kings 6:15-36; cf. the vision of the restored Temple in Ezek. 41:18-20). The Ark of the Covenant contained not only the Law but also a golden pot of manna and Aaron's rod which was miraculously covered with buds, blossoms and almonds (Heb.9:4).

The High Priest was a living symbol of man fully restored to fellowship with God in the Garden. His forehead was covered with a gold plate, on which was engraved the phrase, HOLY TO THE LORD (Ex. 28:36), as a symbol of the removal of the Curse on Adam's brow. His breastplate was covered with gold and precious stones (Ex. 28:15-30), and the hem of his robe was ringed with pomegranates and golden bells (Ex. 28:33-35). As another symbol of freedom from the Curse, the robe itself was made of linen (Ex. 28:6), for while they were ministering, the priests were forbidden to wear any wool at all: "They shall be clothed with linen garments; and wool shall not be on them while they are ministering. . . . They shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat" (Ezek. 44:17-18). In Genesis 3:18-19, sweat is an aspect of fallen man's labor under death and the Curse; the priest, as the Restored Man, was required to wear the light material of linen to show the removal of the Curse in salvation.

Edenic symbolism was also in the feasts of Israel, as they celebrated the bounty of God's provision and enjoyed the fullness of life and prosperity under the blessings of the covenant. This is particularly true of the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (also called "Ingathering," in Ex. 23:16). In this feast they were required to leave their homes and live for seven days in little "tab ernacles," or booths, made entirely from "the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook" (Lev. 23:40). Israel usually dwelled in walled cities, as a protection against their enemies; yet, at the very time of prosperity (the end of harvest) — when attack would seem most likely - God ordered them to leave the security of their homes and journey to Jerusalem, to live in unprotected booths made of branches, palm fronds, and fruit! God promised, however, that He would keep the heathen from attacking during the festivals (Ex. 34:23-24), and Israel had to trust in His strength.

The feast was, obviously, a reminder of life in Eden, when walled cities were unnecessary; and it looked forward to the day when the world would be turned into Eden, and the nations would beat their swords into plowshares (Mic.4:3). For this reason they were also commanded to sacrifice 70 bullocks during the feast (Num. 29:12-38). Why? Because the number of the original nations of the earth was 70 (they are listed in Gen. 10), and the feast celebrated the ingathering of all nations into God's Kingdom; thus atonement was made for all.

It is important to remember that the Jews did not keep this feast - in fact, they forgot it was even in the Bible - until their return from captivity under Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. 8:13-18). During this period of renewal and restoration, God enlightened the minds of the prophets to understand the significance of this feast as an acted-out prophecy of the conversion of all nations to the true faith. On the last day of the feast (Hag. 2:1), God spoke through Haggai: " 'I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations; and I will fill this House [the Temple] with glory. . . . The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' declares the Lord of hosts" (Hag. 2:7-8). About this same time, Zechariah prophesied about the meaning of the feast in terms of the conversion of all nations and the sanctification of every area of life (Zech. 14:16-21). And hundreds of years later, during the celebration of the same feast, Christ Himself declared its meaning: the outpouring of the Spirit upon the restored believer, so that the Church becomes a means of restoration to the entire world (Jn. 7:37-39; cf. Ezek. 47:1-12).

Israel was to be the means of bringing the blessings of the Garden of Eden to the world: Scripture goes out of its way to portray this symbolically when it tells us {twice: Ex. 15:27; Num. 33:9) of Israel camping at Elim, where there were 12 wells of water (the 12 tribes of Israel) and 70 palm trees (the 70 nations of the world). God thus organized Israel as a small-scale model of the world, giving it 70 elders (Ex. 24:1); and Jesus followed this pattern by sending out 70 disciples (Lk. 10:1). God's people are a nation of priests (Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), chosen to bring the light of the Gospel into a world darkened by sin and the Curse. Increasingly, the Hope expressed in the Feast of Tabernacles will be realized, as the whole earth becomes a Garden (Isa. 11:9; Dan. 2:35); as the world is filled with blessing and security, and there is no longer any need for walled cities (Lev. 23:3-6; Isa. 65:17-25; Ezek. 34:25-29). The Garden of Eden, the Mountain of the Lord, will be restored in history, before the Second Coming, by the power of the Gospel; and the desert will rejoice, and blossom as the rose (Isa. 35:1).

In contrast, the Bible says that God controls the heathen by withholding food and water. To understand the misery of much of the so-called "Third World," we need to look first at its ungodly religion and culture. The Edenic blessing of abundance will never be theirs until they repent and believe the Gospel. Christian cultures, on the other hand (especially the countries of the Reformation), are blessed with food that is relatively cheap and abundant. But the Biblical warning is clear: if our nation continues in its apostasy, famine will come, as surely as our rebellious first parents were cast out of Eden. We cannot possess the blessings of the Garden if we live in rebellion against God. The fruitful field will again become a wilderness:

But it will come about, if you will not obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out (Deut. 28:15-19).

Upon the land of my people thorns and briars shall come up . . . .

Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high,

And the wilderness becomes a fertile field,

And the fertile field is considered as a forest. (Isa. 32:13-15)

What, then, was God to do? What else could He possibly do, being God, but renew His image in mankind, so that through it men might once more come to know Him? And how could this be done save by the coming of the very Image Himself, our Saviour Jesus Christ? Men could not have done it, for they are only made after the Image; nor could angels have done it, for they are not the images of God. The Word of God came in His own Person, because it was He alone, the Image of the Father, Who could re-create man made after the Image.

In order to effect this re-creation, however, He had first to do away with death and corruption. Therefore He assumed a human body, in order that in it death might once for all be destroyed, and that men might be renewed according to the Image.

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation [13]

THE GARDEN AND THE HOWLING WILDERNESS

When God created Adam, He placed him into a land, and gave him dominion over it. Land is basic to dominion; therefore, salvation involves a restoration to land and property. In announcing His covenant to Abram, the very first sentence God spoke was a promise of land (Gen. 12:1), and He completely fulfilled that promise when He saved Israel (Josh. 21:43-45). This is why Biblical law is filled with references to property, law, and economics; and this is why the Reformation laid such stress on this world, as well as the next. Man is not saved by being delivered out of his environment. Salvation does not rescue us from the material world, but from sin, and from the effects of the Curse. The Biblical ideal is for every man to own property -a place where he can have dominion and rule under God.

The blessings of the Western world have come because of Christianity and the resultant freedom which men have had in the use and development of property and the fulfillment of their callings under God's dominion mandate. Capitalism - the free market — is a product of Biblical law, in which a high priority is placed upon private property, and which condemns theft of all kinds (including theft by the State).

To unbelieving economists, professors, and government officials, it is a mystery why capitalism cannot be exported. Considering the obvious, proven superiority of the free market in raising the standard of living for all classes of people, why don't pagan nations implement capitalism into their social structures? The reason is this: Freedom cannot be exported to a nation that has no marketplace for the Gospel. The blessings of the Garden cannot be obtained apart from Jesus Christ. The Golden Rule -which sums up the law and the prophets (Matt. 7:12) — is the inescapable ethical foundation for the free market; and this ethic is impossible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to keep the righteous requirements of God's law (Rem. 8:4).

All heathen cultures have been statist and tyrannical, for a people who reject God will surrender themselves and their property to a dictator (1 Sam. 8:7-20). Ungodly men want the blessings of the Garden, but they attempt to possess them by unlawful means, as Ahab did with Naboth's vineyard (1 Ki. 21:1-16), and the result is, as always, destruction (1 Ki. 21:17-24). The genuine, free possession of land is the result of salvation: God brought His people into a land, and divided it among them for an inheritance (Num. 26:52-56); and, as He had done in Eden, He regulated the land (Lev. 25:4) and the trees (Lev. 19:23-25; Deut. 20:19-20).

As we have seen, when God banished Adam and Eve from their land, the world began to become a wilderness (Gen. 3:17-19). From this point the Bible begins to develop a Land-vs.-Wilderness theme, in which the redeemed, obedient people of God are seen inheriting a land that is secure and bountiful, while the disobedient are cursed by being driven out into a wilderness. When Cain was judged by God, he complained: "Today You are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from Your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth" (Gen. 4:14). And he was correct, as Scripture records: "So Cain went out from the Lord's presence, and lived in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden" (Gen. 4:16). Nod means Wandering: Cain became the first nomad, a wanderer with no home and no destination.

Similarly, when the whole world became wicked, God said: "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land" (Gen. 6:7), and He did so, by the Flood -leaving only Noah and his household alive in the ark (which God brought to rest, incidentally, on a mountain; Gen. 8:4). The ungodly were driven out of the land, and the people of the covenant repopu-lated it.

Again, the ungodly tried to build their own "Garden," the tower of Babel. They were seeking to make themselves a name

- to define themselves in terms of their own rebellious standards

- and to prevent themselves from being scattered from the land (Gen. 11:4). But man cannot build the Garden on his own terms. God is the Definer, and He is the only One who can give us security. The very attempt of the people of Babel to prevent their destruction actually brought it about. God confused their languages - so much for "naming" anything! - and scattered them from their land (Gen. 11:8-9).

In marked contrast, the very next chapter records God's covenant with Abram, in which He promises to bring Abram into a land, and to make his name great (Gen. 12:1-2). As a further guarantee and reminder of His covenant, God even changed Abram's name to Abraham, in terms of his predestined calling. God is our Definer: He alone gives us our name, and "calls into being that which does not exist" (Rem. 4:17). Thus, as we are baptized into God's Name (Matt. 28:19), we are redefined as God's living people, free in Christ from our death in Adam (Rem. 5:12-6:23). Circumcision performed the same function in the Old Testament, which is why children officially received their name when they were circumcised (cf. Luke 2:21). In salvation, God brings us back into Eden and gives us a new name (Rev. 2:17; cf. Isa. 65:13-25).

When God's people became disobedient as they were about to enter the Promised Land, God punished them by making them wander in the Wilderness, until the entire generation of the disobedient was wiped out (Num. 14:26-35). Then God turned and saved His people out of "the howling waste of a wilderness" (Deut. 32:10), and brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey (another subtle reminder of Eden, by the way: milk is a more nourishing form of water, and honey comes from trees). God's obedient people have never been nomads - instead, they are marked by stability, and have dominion. True, the Bible does call us pilgrims (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11), but that is just the point: we are pilgrims, not hobos. A pilgrim has a home, a destination. In redemption God saves us from our wanderings, and gathers us into a land (Ps. 107:1-9). A scattered, homeless people cannot have dominion. When the Puritans left England, they did not wander over the earth; God brought them into a land and made them rulers, and though the foundation they built has greatly eroded, it is still very much with us after 300 years. (What will people 300 years from now say of the accomplishments of today's shallow, retreatist evangelicalism?)

People become nomads only through disobedience (Deut. 28:65). As the Curse functions in history, as civilization apostatizes, nomadism becomes widespread, and the wilderness increases. And, as the Curse spreads, the water dries up. Since the Fall, the ground is no longer watered primarily by springs. God sends us water by rain instead (rain is much easier to turn off and on at a moment's notice than springs and rivers are). The withholding of water - turning the land into a parched wilderness - is very closely related to the Curse (Deut. 29:22-28). The Curse is also described in terms of the disobedient people being uprooted from the land (Deut. 29:28), in contrast to God's planting of His people in the land (Ex. 15:17). God destroys the roots of a land and people by cutting off the water supply: drought is regarded in Scripture as a major (and effective) means of national punishment. When God shuts off the water, He turns the land into the very opposite of Eden.

The history of Sodom and Gomorrah is a sort of capsulized history of the world in this regard. Once described as being like the Garden of Eden in its beauty and abundance (Gen. 13:10), it became through God's judgment "a burning waste of salt and sulfur — nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it" (Deut. 29:23). Sodom and Gomorrah were in the area now known as the Dead Sea - and it is called Dead for a very good reason: nothing can live in it. Chemical deposits (salt, potash, magnesium, and others) make up 25 percent of the water as a result of God's judgment upon the land. Except for where water flows into it (and a few isolated springs in the area), the land is completely arid. It is now the furthest thing imaginable from Eden, and it serves as a picture of the world after the Curse: Eden has become Wilderness.

But that is not all we are told about this area. In Ezekiel's vision of the restored Temple (also on a mountain; Ezek. 40:2), he sees the Water of Life flowing eastward from the threshold toward the Dead Sea and healing its waters, resulting in "a great multitude of fish" and luxuriant growth (Ezek. 47:8-12). We must not look upon the world with eyes that see only the Curse; we must look with the eyes of faith, enlightened by God's Word to see the world as the arena of His triumph. History does not end with the Wilderness. World history will be, on a massive scale, that of Sodom: first a Garden, lovely and fruitful; then corrupted into a Wilderness of Death through sin; finally, restored by God's grace to its former Edenic abundance. "The wil-

and the solitary place will be glad; and the desert will rejoice, and blossom as the rose" (Isa. 35:1).

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none;

Their tongues are parched with thirst.

But I the Lord will answer them;

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

I will make rivers flow on barren heights,

And springs within the valleys.

I will turn the desert into pools of water,

And the parched ground into springs.

I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia,

The myrtle and the olive.

I will set pines in the wasteland,

The fir and the cypress together,

So that people may see and know,

May consider and understand,

That the hand of the Lord has done this,

That the Holy One of Israel has created it. (Isa. 41:17-20)

This, then, is the direction of history, in what maybe called "the First Rapture" - God gradually uprooting unbelievers and unbelieving cultures from the land, and bringing His people into a full inheritance of the earth.

I am not denying, of course, the Biblical teaching that God's people will someday meet the Lord in the air, at His return (1 Thess.4:17); but the modern doctrine of the "Rapture" is too often a doctrine of flight from the world, in which Christians are taught to long for escape from the world and its problems, rather than for what God's Word promises us: Dominion. How common it is to hear Christians say, when confronted with a problem: "I sure hope the Rapture comes soon!" - rather than: "Let's get to work on the solution right now!" Even worse is the response that is also too common: "Who cares? We don't have to do anything about it, because the Rapture is coming soon anyway!" And worst of all is the attitude held by some that all work to make this a better world is absolutely wrong, because "improving the situation will only delay the Second Coming!" A good deal of modern Rapturism should be recognized for what it really is: a dangerous error that is teaching God's people to expect defeat instead of victory.

Indeed, a very common evangelical worldview is that "the earth is the devil's, and the fulness thereof" - that the world belongs to Satan, and that Christians can expect only defeat until the Lord returns. And that is exactly the lie that Satan wants Christians to believe. If God's people think the devil is winning, it makes his job just that much easier. What would he do if Christians stopped retreating and started advancing against him? James 4:7 tells us what he would do: he would flee from us! So why isn't the devil fleeing from us in this age? Why are Christians at the mercy of Satan and his servants? Why aren't Christians conquering kingdoms with the Gospel, as they did in times past? Because Christians are not resisting the devil! Worse yet, they're being told by their pastors and leaders not to resist, but to retreat instead! Christian leaders have turned James 4:7 inside out, and are really giving aid and comfort to the enemy — because they are, in effect, saying to the devil: "Resist the Church, and we will flee from you!" And Satan is taking them at their word. So then, when Christians see themselves losing on every front, they take it as "proof" that God has not promised to give dominion to His people. But the only thing it proves is that James 4:7 is true, after all, including its "flip side" - that is, if you don't resist the devil, he won 't flee from you.

What we must remember is that God doesn't "rapture" Christians out of the world in order to escape conflict - He "raptures" non-Christians ! The Lord Jesus prayed, in fact, that we would not be "raptured": "My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one" (John 17:15). And this is the constant message of Scripture. God's people will inherit all things, and the ungodly will be disinherited and driven out of the land. "For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be uprooted from it" (Prov. 2:21-22). "The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land" (Prov. 10:30). God described the land of Canaan as having been "defiled" by the abominable sins of its heathen population, saying that the land itself "vomited out its inhabitants"; and He warned His people not to imitate those heathen abominations, "so that the land may not vomit you out also" (Lev. 18:24-28; 20:22). Using the same Edenic language, the Lord warns the church of Laodicea against sin, and threatens: "I will vomit you out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16). In His parable of the wheat (the godly) and the tares (the ungodly) - and note the Edenic imagery even in His choice of illustrations - Christ declares that He will gather first the tares for destruction; the wheat is "raptured" later (Matt. 13:30).

"The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the just" (Prov. 13:22). That is the basic pattern of history as God saves His people and gives them dominion. This is what God did with Israel: in saving them, He brought them into already-settled lands, and they inherited cities that had already been bui}t (Ps. 105:43-45). God does bless the heathen, in a sense - just so they can work out their own damnation, in the meantime building up an inheritance for the godly (cf. Gen. 15:16; Ex. 4:21; Josh. 11:19-20). Then God smashes them and gives the fruit of their labor to His people. This is why we need not fret over evildoers, for we shall inherit the earth (Ps. 37). The Hebrew word for salvation is yasha, meaning to bring into a large, wide, open space - and in salvation God does just that: He gives us the world, and turns it into the Garden of Eden.

He it is Who won victory from His daemon foes and trophies from the idolaters even before His bodily appearing - namely, all the heathen who from every region have abjured the tradition of their fathers and the false worship of idols and are now placing their hope in Christ and transferring their allegiance to Him. The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father. He it is Who was crucified with the sun and moon as witnesses; and by His death salvation has come to all men, and all creation has been redeemed.

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation [37]

THE FIERY CLOUD

What was most important about the Garden - indeed, that which made it a Garden at all — was God's presence with His people. In order to understand this properly, we will begin our study in this chapter with the revelation of God's presence to the covenant people of Israel, and then work both backward to Eden and forward to the Church.

God revealed His presence to His people in the Cloud of Glory. The Cloud functioned as a sort of "mobile home" for God -His fiery chariot by which He made His presence known to His people. The Cloud served as a guide for Israel, giving light in the darkness and shade from the heat (Ex. 13:21-22; Ps. 105:39), but bringing judgment to the wicked (Ex. 14:19-25). On Sinai, the Cloud was accompanied by thunder, light, fire, smoke and an earthquake (Ex. 19:16-20), and was filled with innumerable angels (Deut. 33:2; Ps. 68:17). The Cloud is nothing less than a revelation of the invisible Heaven, where God is seated on His throne of glory, surrounded by His heavenly court and council (Ex. 24:9-15; Isa. 6:1-4), and from which He spoke to Moses (Ex. 33:9; Ps. 99:7).

When the Tabernacle was completed, the Cloud entered it and filled it with the glory of God (Ex. 40:34-38; cf. 2 Chron.

and fire issued forth from it to consume the sacrifices (Lev. 9:23-24). The prophet Ezekiel looked up through the Cloud (Ezek. 1) and saw fire, lightning and winged creatures flying below a "firmament" - the "pavement" or "sea of glass" that is around the base of God's throne (Ex. 24:10; Rev. 4:6) - and around the throne was the Glory in the form of a rainbow (Ezek. 1:28; cf. Gen. 9:12-17; Rev. 4:3; 10:1).

How To Survive The End Of The World

How To Survive The End Of The World

Preparing for Armageddon, Natural Disasters, Nuclear Strikes, the Zombie Apocalypse, and Every Other Threat to Human Life on Earth. Most of us have thought about how we would handle various types of scenarios that could signal the end of the world. There are plenty of movies on the subject, psychological papers, and even survivalists that are part of reality TV shows. Perhaps you have had dreams about being one of the few left and what you would do in order to survive.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment