Whatever Happened to Eden?
I mean the one where Adam and Eve lived. Joni Mitchell wrote a song called “Woodstock” in which she said the solution to our problems is “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.” I’m for that, but how do we do it? When we hear of environmental extremists keeping gas pipelines from being built or politicians promising healthcare for every citizen, it’s the same song with this assurance added: “This is how we get back to the Garden!” Nothing wrong with the desire, of course. C.S. Lewis wrote: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” You were made for Eden. That’s why you long for it. Trouble is, if we try to find it in this world, we’ll miss it both here and in the world to come.
Genesis 2:10 gives us the coordinates for Eden. It was located at the headwaters of four rivers—the Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. Only those last two rivers exist today. What happened to the Pishon and Gihon? They were swept away in a catastrophic event. It all began when Adam and Eve broke God’s law and were exiled from the Garden. The Garden did not cease to exist at that point. They were simply barred from entering it, cherubim serving as guards at its gates). But they themselves never ventured far from it, for we’re told it was Cain, not his parents, who was forced to wander east of Eden in the land of Nod. Adam and Eve continued to live just down the street from Eden in a world that was still wonderful enough that they lived to the ripe old age of 900!
So what happened to Eden? One of two things. Reading on in Genesis, we find that the world was filled with violence and the thoughts of men’s heart were only evil continually. So God destroyed the first earth in a flood of water. 2 Peter 3:6 affirms this: “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” By the way, Peter warns that this present world will also be destroyed for similar reasons very soon – not by water this time, but by fire. Let the reader beware! So it is possible that the Garden of Eden was swept away in the Great Flood.
However, I think it is more likely that God transplanted the Garden of Eden to heaven where it has been safely cultivated ever since. For the final pages of the Bible describe an Edenic paradise whose gates never close. In the middle of this Garden will be the river of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and on either side of the river will be the tree of life bearing twelve varieties of fruit, its leaves bringing healing to the nations. (Rev. 22:1-2), and surrounding this central park will be the holy city, New Jerusalem which will come down to earth out of heaven from God. At this point heaven and earth will again be one, God’s will being done on earth just as it is in heaven. For the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb will be the light and temple of this city.
Any chance for us to go there? The choice is yours. For this is the place Jesus went to prepare for us. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me. In My Father’s House are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2) He also gave very precise directions for getting there. Thomas doubted, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus assured him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.”
So quit worrying about how to get it all and reach your full potential in this life! No one ever does. Nor will life turn out the way you hope. But it can turn out better than expected if you live for the next world instead of this one – praying for and doing all you can to take others with you there and cultivating a character that is suitable for heaven’s culture. Lewis wrote: “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you will get neither.”